Midlands nuclear site opens for rare look inside

FAIRFIELD COUNTY (WACH) -- It's full speed ahead at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville, where two units are under development.

In the wake of Japan's nuclear disaster, SCE&G invited the media to tour the facility on Tuesday. Officials stressed its current unit and the two in pre-construction are designed to withstand natural disasters.

Not only is a tsunami unlikely, says SCE&G TMs COO Steve Byrne, the kind of earthquakes they experienced in Japan is also unlikely to happen here in South Carolina.

There are no active fault lines in the vicinity of the utility's nuclear plant and even so, it's built to survive the largest earthquake the region could experience, according to Byrne.

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Alan Torres oversees construction at the plant and adds the design of the units is substantially safer than the one in Japan.

"The AP1000 is specifically designed to shut itself down in the event of an emergency or accident condition without the need of outside electricity, Torres says.

SCE&G expects to have its two units completed within eight years.

Right now, the state receives about 55 percent of its power from nuclear plants. Officials anticipate that number to go up and the need for coal and natural gas to go down with the addition of the two units.

Byrne believes it will be a positive change for the utility.

Whether customers necessarily recognize that now or not, says Byrne, it will prevent spikes in fuel prices.

The total cost of the project is estimated to be around $9.8 billion.

Although it won TMt be until 2016 before the first of the two units go online, the state TMs economy is already getting a boost, more than half of SCE&G workforce for this project are coming from within South Carolina.

With the Japanese nuclear plant reaching the highest alert level this week, are you concerned about the safety of nuclear plants in the Midlands? Vote in our poll below and leave a comment.