Japans earthquake and nuclear plant crisis couldnt have come at a worse time for those who want to expand atomic power in South Carolina.
SCE&G and Duke Energy have plans to build four new nuclear reactors, but radiation leaks and evidence of a nuclear meltdown in Japan could increase federal oversight, raise costs and slow by years the amount of time it takes to get a license.
Nuclear reactors were 95 percent more costly to build in the years immediately following the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident than they were in the years before that, said Mark Cooper, a senior fellow with the Vermont School of Law who tracks the issue. Cooper said nuclear accidents almost always bring more scrutiny.
Concern with safety will cause regulators to re-examine this, and it will raise the cost of reactors, Cooper said, noting that it also could delay new licenses. A lot of things they say couldnt happen are happening.
SCE&G officials declined comment Monday about proposed plants in Fairfield County, but a Duke Energy spokeswoman said her company is committed to building two nuclear plants in Cherokee County. The company hopes to receive a federal license by 2013 and open the first plant by 2021.