BRADENTON, Fla. – Bowing to public and political pressures, South Carolina Electric & Gas withdrew its petition for regulators to cancel its participation in building two nuclear reactors.
The move, to give state lawmakers and Gov. Henry McMaster time to review the project, will probably delay eventual abandonment of the project, officials with SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA Corp., told analysts Wednesday.
State lawmakers and stakeholders have demanded to know why the two new reactors at the V.C. Summer plant won’t be completed by 55% owner SCE&G and the state-owned South Carolina Public Service Authority’s Santee Cooper, a 45% stakeholder.
“We recognize that this process creates some uncertainty regarding abandonment,” said SCANA Chief Executive Officer Kevin Marsh, who added that elected officials also want to know how canceling the project will impact Santee Cooper and SCE&G.
Both utilities have spent billions on construction, which is only 36% complete.
However, its future was cast in doubt when prime contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March intending to shed billions of debt tied to cost overruns for the South Carolina project and a similar two-reactor project in Georgia.
Marsh said he views as “temporary” SCE&G’s decision to withdraw its petition to abandon the project, which was pending before the South Carolina Public Service Commission.
The PSC had not yet scheduled hearings on the petition, but numerous SCE&G customers have demanded refunds of rates imposed to finance the project. Numerous groups and at least one lawmaker requested to intervene in the petition.
The Senate’s V.C. Summer Nuclear Project Review Committee will hold its first meeting Tuesday. McMaster is attempting to find a utility that would take over Santee Cooper’s interest in the project.
Santee Cooper, which is not regulated by the PSC, voted last week to cancel rate increases for 2018 and 2019 saying they were no longer necessary due to its decision to cancel the nuclear project. The agency plans to schedule “informational meetings” with ratepayers to discuss factors that led to its decision.
Santee Cooper has $7.7 billion of outstanding bonds. Of that amount, $4.4 billion was issued to pay for its share of the two unfinished reactors.
The South Carolina nuclear units were to be based on Westinghouse’s new AP1000 design.
At Georgia’s Plant Vogtle, the same AP1000 design is being used. Westinghouse also was the lead contractor on two units that are still under construction there, for now.
On Tuesday, the Georgia Public Service Commission ordered the Georgia Power Co. to file a report by Aug. 31 that details whether GPC and public power owners of the Vogtle project intend to proceed with it. GPC owns 45.7% of the reactors.
The Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia owns 22.7% of the project and has issued $2.92 billion of bonds; the nonprofit Oglethorpe Power Corp. has issued $1.5 billion of first mortgage bonds for its 30% ownership share; and the city of Dalton, Ga., has a 1.6% share that its utility is funding on its own.