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Duke Energy remains firmly committed to nuclear power despite the March nuclear plant accident in Japan, CEO Jim Rogers told the company's shareholders today. "Duke Energy and the entire U.S. nuclear industry will learn from the Japanese accident. And, we'll make modifications at our existing plants, if needed," Rogers told about 200 shareholders at the company's annual meeting. "But one thing is certain: nuclear energy remains vital to the world's energy future. It's the only technology available today to generate carbon-free, reliable, base-load electricity - 24/7," he said.
Rogers called nuclear energy "a key component" of Duke Energy's long-term strategy to reduce its carbon footprint. "That hasn't changed as a result of the accident in Japan," he said.
Duke Energy currently operates seven nuclear reactors. Upon completion of its pending merger with Raleigh, N.C.-based Progress Energy, the combined company - operating under the Duke Energy name - will operate 12 of America's 104 nuclear reactors. "Nuclear energy must remain a key part of our existing generation fleet, and we remain firmly committed to building new nuclear reactors, as well," Rogers said.
"We'll continue to move forward with the licensing process for our proposed Lee Nuclear Station in South Carolina. And we'll continue to pursue joint nuclear partnerships with other entities to spread the cost of building the Lee plant, and reduce the rate impact on customers," he said.
The two-reactor Lee plant, near Gaffney, S.C., has a projected online date in the early 2020's. Four other new Duke Energy power plants - currently under construction in North Carolina and Indiana - are scheduled to come online in 2012 as part of the company's $7-billion modernization strategy, Rogers said. The plants - two gas-fired and two coal-fired - together will generate nearly 2,700 MW.