Duke Energy and Progress Energy want to merge, and one reason is, neither can really afford to build a new nuclear plant(s) by itself. But if combining their financial power is the point of the merger, why is it that their current customers — not their shareholders, not their bankers — would be asked to finance, i.e., supply all the money in advance of construction and bear all the risk, said nuke plants?

[The day after, the threat of a meltdown in Japan tells us part of the answer.]

Peter Bradford, former member of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, will be in Raleigh next week to testify in a Duke Energy rate case involving its proposed Lee reactor in South Carolina. I’ll try to ask him that question. In the meantime, click here for a preview of his thinking on the need for new nukes.

The Duke case is in front of the N.C. Utilities Commission because, though the Lee reactor would be in SC, ratepayers in both states are being asked to kick in for it now.

Duke and Progress, meanwhile, are said to be circulating draft legislation at the General Assembly aimed at giving them virtually automatic rate increases in advance for future nuclear construction — no need for those pesky rate cases and testimony and such.


Anyway, it’s only billions of dollars out of the customers’ pockets for plants that may or may not get built. Here’s the cartoon explanation of why this is a great idea for you and me, from the N.C. Conservation Network — funny, if not so true:

YouTube video