Monday, 18 June, 2018

Utility votes to stop building billion-dollar nuke reactors

South Carolina Company Halts Nuclear Project Santee Cooper board suspends construction at VC Summer site in Jenkinsville
Laurie Berry | 01 August, 2017, 11:12

Today's Board action provides for a wind-down and suspension of construction on the two units and directs management to preserve and protect the site and related components and equipment.

Santee Cooper began exploring new nuclear power more than a decade ago. It's billions of dollars over budget, years behind schedule and not likely to be finished by January 1, 2021, the deadline to receive tax credits.

The decision to suspend construction is based in large part on a comprehensive analysis of detailed schedule and cost data, from both project contractor Westinghouse Electric Co. and subcontractor Fluor Corp., first revealed after Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy in March.

Even the light bulb has contributed to the decision to pull the plug on the expansion project in SC.

Santee Cooper, a state-owned electric utility that was a minority owner in the plant, provided figures that suggested the final costs to build the facility by 2024 would swell to about $25.7 billion.

A short time later, South Carolina Electric & Gas said it will abandon the project, citing the combination of Westinghouse's bankruptcy and Santee-Cooper's decision. Westinghouse managed the project, which was two years behind schedule and $4.2 billion over budget. "We simply can not ask our customers to pay for a project that has become uneconomical".

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Westinghouse asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, N.Y., last week to give it until December 6 to file a plan of reorganization. Ultimately, our project co-owner Santee Cooper's decision to suspend construction made clear that proceeding on our own would not be economically feasible.

"The dissimilarities of these projects should be recognized before making any suppositions on whether construction will continue at Plant Vogtle based on decisions made in SC", said Stan Wise, chairman of the Georgia Public Service Commission. The utilities faced an August 10 deadline to file cost studies on the plant to the South Carolina Public Service Commission.

"We expect to continue to work with the office of regulatory staff and any other intervening staff to attempt to reach a fair and balanced resolution resolution to this matter", Marsh told analysts in a conference call Monday afternoon. CB&I also acquired Shaw's Stone & Webster nuclear construction business as part of the $3 billion deal, then sold CB&I Stone & Webster to Toshiba's Westinghouse unit in 2015. SCANA Corp., which owns 55%, said in a statement it will immediately file plans with regulators to cease construction as well.

They said they hope to decide soon whether they will continue with the two projects, modify them or abandon them.

Clements says his group will ask state regulators to reduce rates so consumers don't have to pay for the failed project. That slowdown, accompanied by a long trend of a manufacturing flight from the United States, cut sharply into economic forecasts that were much rosier as executives were plotting whether or not SC could benefit from two more nuclear power plants. Construction began with state approval in 2009, and the project was so far about one-third completed.

"The best case scenario shows this project would be several years late and 75 percent more than originally planned", Santee Cooper President and CEO Lonnie Carter said in a statement. The company said it still believed in the benefits of nuclear energy, but couldn't justify the additional cost.

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