Nuclear project scuttled in S.C.; bad omen for Plant Vogtle?

[private]Santee Cooper and SCE&G announced Monday they are pulling the plug on a $14 billion nuclear project in South Carolina, prompting speculation that a similar fate might await Georgia Power’s nuclear project at Plant Vogtle.

SCE&G said it is abandoning the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in Fairfield County after its analysis of the project indicated that trying to complete the two nuclear reactors “would be prohibitively expensive.”

“We arrived at this very difficult but necessary decision following months of evaluating the project from all perspectives to determine the most prudent path forward,” said Kevin Marsh, the CEO of SCANA, SCE&G’s parent corporation.

“Ultimately, our project co-owner Santee Cooper’s decision to suspend construction made clear that proceeding on our own would not be economically feasible,” Marsh said. “Ceasing work on the project was our least desired option, but this is the right thing to do at this time.”

Both V.C. Summer and Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle were seen as heralds of a new era in nuclear power when both of the projects were given the go-ahead about nine years ago.

Both of the projects involved construction of the same type of nuclear reactors with the same primary contractor, Westinghouse Electric, which filed for bankruptcy in March.

But Santee Cooper and SCE&G had earlier indicated that the South Carolina project faced “significant challenges” stemming from cost overruns and schedule delays — the same challenges facing Georgia Power at Plant Vogtle, which is now $3 billion over budget and more than 39 months behind schedule.

Georgia Power has now assumed management control of the Plant Vogtle construction from Westinghouse and said it would file its own “cost to complete” analysis with the Public Service Commission by the end of August.

“The V.C. Summer and Vogtle projects are unique and different in many ways,” Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said. “Our agreements with Westinghouse and Toshiba remain in place and construction continues at the Vogtle site under the new service agreement finalized last week.”

“Once Georgia Power’s assessment is completed in August, we will work with the Georgia Public Service Commission to determine the best path forward for Georgia customers,” Hawkins said.

“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 South Carolina,” PSC Chairman Stan Wise said.

“I share the concern of my colleagues about the potential risk to ratepayers as each month passes,” Wise said. “Accordingly, at the August 10 Energy Committee I intend to ask my colleagues, staff and Georgia Power to develop a schedule that calls for a final decision before the end of the year on whether the project will continue and, if that decision is to move forward with construction, to approve changes to the schedule and cost.”

Former Public Service Commission member Bobby Baker predicted that the South Carolina shutdown will have a “huge impact” on the future of Plant Vogtle.

“This is officially the end of the nuclear renaissance,” Baker said. “It ended today.”

“We applaud Santee Cooper and SCE&G for making the right decision to protect their customers,” said Stephen A. Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

“This project has been a multi-billion dollar disaster,” Smith said. “We also call on Georgia Power and their utility partners to protect their customers from the similarly risky, mismanaged project in Georgia at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle.”

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Georgia Power , nuclear plant , Plant Vogtle , Santee Cooper , SCE&G , V. C. Summer