35 years of carbon-free nuclear energy marked at power plant 35 years of carbon-free nuclear energy marked at power plant

35 years of carbon-free nuclear energy marked at power plant

Then and now photos show you a glimpse of Catawba Nuclear Station in South Carolina


What were you doing in 1985? Graduating high school, getting your first promotion or maybe even being born. Catawba Nuclear Station unit 1 came online 35 years ago on June 29, 1985. (Unit 2 began commercial operation on Aug. 19, 1986.)

This year, we recognize 35 years of carbon-free, reliable nuclear energy generation at Catawba in York County, S.C., south of Charlotte. The plant produces 2,310 megawatts of electricity every hour, enough to keep the lights on in more than 1.4 million homes.

Catawba Nuclear Station is owned by North Carolina Municipal Power Agency Number One, North Carolina Electric Membership Corp., Piedmont Municipal Power Agency and Duke Energy. It is licensed to operate through 2043. Duke Energy is applying for a second license renewal, which would allow the station to continue providing clean, reliable electricity until 2063.

To celebrate the 35th anniversary, groups of teammates began the year collecting items each week for 35 weeks to donate to nonprofits. For example, the station’s Community Outreach Council donated over 100 books to the Early Learning Partnership of York County and Piedmont Medical Center and the Security team donated over 300 items to Rock Hill’s Dorothy Day Soup Kitchen.

We’ve gathered some then and now photos to show how far we’ve come.


Duke Power CEO Bill Lee, right, stands with Vice President of Construction Bob Dick, left, and project manager Doug Beam in front of the bedrock on which Catawba Nuclear Station is built. The company broke ground on May 16, 1974.


Workers pour concrete to form a containment building that is 77 feet high and 110 feet in diameter. Catawba has two containment buildings. Each houses a nuclear reactor and is made of concrete 3 feet thick with a 3/4-inch thick steel liner. The liner is made of 7/8-inch thick air- and water-tight steel, while the reinforced concrete building itself is nearly 4 feet thick. The foundation is a 12-inch thick concrete slab over granite bedrock.


Then: Catawba’s unit 1 turbine deck under construction. In a pressurized water reactor, the steam created by heating water through nuclear fission flows to the turbines, which spin a generator, producing electricity.


Now: Three low-pressure turbines and one high-pressure turbine each run at 1,800 RPMs.


Then: This turbine was installed during unit 1 construction.


Now: This turbine was installed during Catawba’s 2020 spring refueling outage. This was the first time Catawba replaced low-pressure turbines on either unit.


Then: The six mechanical draft cooling towers (three for each unit) under construction.


Now: Water vapor is often visible for miles. Learn more about the cooling towers in Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet.


Then: Catawba Nuclear Station was a substantial investment for Duke Power and York County, costing $3.6 billion to build.


Now: Almost 800 people work at Catawba Nuclear Station. The average job supported by Duke Energy (directly or indirectly) pays an annual wage about 53.8% higher than the average job in South Carolina.

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