Utilities ditch reactors that launched U.S. nuclear renaissance

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 31, 2017 1:03 PM

By Harriet McLeod

COLUMBIA, S.C. (Reuters) - Two South Carolina utilities said on Monday they are abandoning two unfinished reactors that were hailed as the start of a U.S. nuclear power renaissance before they were dogged by billions of dollars in cost overruns.

The twin-reactor project known as V.C. Summer is majority owned by SCANA Corp, with state-owned utility Santee Cooper owning 45 percent.

"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 SCANA Chief Executive Officer Kevin Marsh in a statement.

The project was expected to begin producing power last year, but is less than 40 percent complete due to construction problems, disputes with regulators and poor quality work.

A presentation to Santee Cooper's board showed the estimated cost to complete the project had soared 75 percent and the project was not expected to begin producing power until 2023, more than six years behind the original schedule.

Westinghouse Electric Co designed and was constructing the V.C. Summer project and a similar nuclear power plant in Georgia known as Vogtle.

The projects were the first new U.S. reactors since the 1979 Three Mile Island accident, and were expected to usher in a new era of nuclear plants that were safer to operate, cheaper to build and carbon free.

Instead, Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy in March and said it could not afford to finish the fixed-price contracts for the two projects, which now add to a long list of abandoned U.S. nuclear projects.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Bernadette Baum)