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      State regulators hold hearing on nuclear request

      COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- South Carolina regulators are considering whether Duke Energy should continue to spend money to keep its nuclear options open.

      Members of the Public Service Commission heard testimony from the public Monday before adjourning to review a proposed settlement between the company, regulators and several other parties in the case. The hearing will resume Tuesday morning.

      The Charlotte, N.C.-based power company wants to continue spending money on the licensing process for a proposed facility in Cherokee County even though the company has not decided if it will build another nuclear plant in South Carolina.

      The settlement would reduce planned expenditures to $120 million from $229 million that the company initially requested.

      "It's very unclear if it's going to go forward," says Tom Clements of Friends of the Earth. "There's a lot of things hanging out there about the law in North Carolina that would allow them to bill their rate payers in advance."

      "The new generation of nuclear technology that the AP 1000 represents, is safer than anything we have ever constructed in the world to date," SC Duke Energy president Katherine Heigel says.

      Office of Regulatory Staff executive director Dukes Scott says the request would have no immediate impact on rates.

      (Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)