News Release
March 03, 2005


CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After two years of thorough review, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) granted Duke Power permission to use mixed oxide (MOX) fuel lead assemblies at Catawba Nuclear Station.

Duke Power routinely conducts lead fuel assembly programs to support fuel design changes. “We plan to use four mixed oxide fuel assemblies in one of the Catawba Nuclear Station reactors alongside 189 conventional uranium fuel assemblies, beginning in spring 2005. This will confirm the good performance of MOX fuel we have already seen in European reactors, and help us obtain regulatory approval for larger-scale use of the fuel in the future,” says Steve Nesbit, Duke Power’s mixed oxide fuel project manager. Operators will shut down one of the reactors at Catawba this spring for a routine maintenance and refueling outage, and the MOX fuel assemblies will be put into the core at that time.

“We are pleased that NRC agrees with our assessment that it is safe to use four MOX fuel lead assemblies at Catawba. This NRC approval is an important step toward the goal of disposing of surplus nuclear weapons material and thereby advancing international nonproliferation efforts,” adds Nesbit.

Mixed oxide fuel is a mature technology in Europe, dating back to the 1960s. More than 30 European reactors currently use the fuel to generate electricity. Applying the technology in the United States is a key element of the international program to dispose of surplus plutonium from nuclear weapons, and thereby reduce the risk of terrorist groups or rogue nations obtaining the material.

MOX fuel is a blend of about 95 percent uranium oxide (conventional nuclear fuel) and about 5 percent plutonium oxide.

The MOX fuel program is part of an international initiative to reduce the stockpiles of plutonium in the United States and in Russia. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) plans to convert 34 metric tons of plutonium from surplus nuclear weapons into nuclear fuel, while Russia does likewise with its own surplus plutonium. DOE’s contractor, Duke Cogema Stone & Webster, is responsible for designing, building and operating a MOX fuel fabrication facility at DOE’s Savannah River Site. Duke Power plans to use that MOX fuel at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, N.C., and Catawba Nuclear Station in York, S.C.

“We are proud to be part of this program. In addition to supporting an important national security initiative, MOX fuel will ultimately provide McGuire and Catawba nuclear stations with a long-term, economical supply of nuclear fuel,” says Nesbit.

Catawba Nuclear Station is a two-unit power plant located on Lake Wylie in York County, S.C. Each of its units can generate electricity at a rate of 1,129 megawatts. Catawba unit 1 began commercial operation in 1985, unit 2 in 1986. The station is jointly owned by North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number 1, North Carolina Electric Membership Corporation, Piedmont Municipal Power Agency, Saluda River Electric Cooperative Inc. and Duke Power.

Duke Power, a business unit of Duke Energy, is one of the nation’s largest electric utilities and provides safe, reliable, competitively priced electricity and value-added products and services to more than 2 million customers in North Carolina and South Carolina. The company operates three nuclear generating stations, eight coal-fired stations, 31 hydroelectric stations and numerous combustion turbine units. Total system generating capability is approximately 19,900 megawatts. More information about Duke Power is available on the Internet at: http://www.dukepower.com.

Duke Energy is a diversified energy company with a portfolio of natural gas and electric businesses, both regulated and unregulated, and an affiliated real estate company. Duke Energy supplies, delivers and processes energy for customers in the Americas. Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 500 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available on the Internet at: http://www.duke-energy.com.

Contact: Tim Pettit
Phone: 704/382-4850
24-Hour Phone: 704/382-8333, Option 1
e-mail: tjpettit@duke-energy.com