Port to handle nuke plant cargo

An aerial view of the State Ports Authority Columbus Street Terminal and the Ravenel bridge.

The Port of Charleston is set to serve as a key way station for a nearly $10 billion energy investment in the Midlands. Wayne update 1-5-11 10:18

Westinghouse Electric Co. plans to use the State Ports Authority's Columbus Street Terminal on the peninsula to handle oversize cargo it will be importing for the Fairfield County project, it was announced Tuesday.

The SPA said it will be handling about 24,000 tons of equipment bound for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, where South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. and Santee Cooper plan to add two new reactors. Shipments are scheduled to begin arriving at Columbus Street in December and continue for more than four years. An estimated 30 vessels will bring in the machinery and other equipment, with some pieces weighing up to 700 tons, the SPA said. The cargo will be transported from the port by rail and truck to the V.C. Summer site, which is about 30 miles northwest of Columbia. Westinghouse is one of the main contractors overseeing the expansion. The SPA said the deal underscores the need to keep the Columbus Street yard as a pure cargo terminal. The agency recently invested $23 million on improvements to the 135-acre property, which mostly handles large, bulky items that don't fit into shipping containers. Among the biggest users of the terminal is BMW, which is on pace to export about 200,000 Upstate-made cars through Columbus Street this year. But two downtown neighborhood groups want to see the SPA's new cruise terminal built on the north end of the property instead of Union Pier as currently proposed. SPA spokesman Byron Miller said that's not an option because the space is needed for cars and other heavy goods. "It is a critical element of our cargo development future," he said. Randy Pelzer, who heads the Charlestowne Neighborhood Association's Cruise Ship Task Force, said Columbus Street can accommodate cruise vessels and cargo ships. He estimated that a passenger terminal would require no more than 20 percent of the property and would only be used on a part-time basis. "It's big enough for both," Pelzer said Tuesday. "That's my biggest point." Miller disagreed: "It's needed for cargo."