NCEMC Receives $16.6 million in Funding for Catawba Nuclear Station
USDA loan will be used to make plant improvementsBy Lisa Crawley
The North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation (NCEMC), the Raleigh-based power supplier serving most of the state’s electric cooperatives, is receiving funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Electric Loan Program to improve generation systems at Catawba Nuclear Station. NCEMC owns a 61.51 percent share of the station’s Unit 1, and emissions‑free nuclear power currently accounts for 55 percent of its energy portfolio.
The $16.6 million loan will fund more than 100 capital projects that will improve Catawba Nuclear Station’s reliability of service, security and IT capability. The single largest capital expenditure included in the loan is for new control rod assemblies to replace the current assemblies, which are reaching the end of their life. The control rods regulate the nuclear chain reaction that is used to generate electricity and are an essential part of the nuclear reactor.
“Catawba Nuclear Station serves as a critical, carbon-free power source for North Carolina’s electric cooperatives,” said Scott Brame, NCEMC’s manager of jointly owned resources. “These improvements will help ensure that we can continue to provide safe, reliable and affordable power to electric co-op members throughout our state, while also improving quality of life and strengthening rural communities.”
NCEMC’s loan is part of a total $251 million USDA investment to upgrade rural electric systems in 13 states. The funding includes $38.2 million to finance smart grid technologies that improve system operations and monitor grid security.
Catawba Nuclear Station Plant Profile
Location: York County, South Carolina, on Lake Wylie
Owners: NCEMC (31%), Duke Energy (19%), NC Municipal Power Agency 1 (37.5%), Piedmont Municipal Power Agency (12.5%)
Operator: Duke Energy
Staff: More than 600 full-time employees
Reactors: Unit 1 began operations 1985; Unit 2 in 1986. Both are pressurized water reactors, the most common reactor type in the United States (see diagram above).
Total capacity: 2,310 MW
Fuel type: Uranium dioxide
Costs: $3.6 billion to build; low operating cost due to price stability of fuel. Can operate for 18 months without adding fuel.
Safety: Redundant safety systems are upgraded regularly, including multiple means to cool the reactor in the event of power loss.
Security: Plant access is heavily restricted with its own armed security force. Structures are reinforced to protect the public, plant workers and the environment. Cybersecurity also is a priority at the plant.