Sale of Santee Cooper could restart nuclear project, SC officials say

Several news sites are reporting that South Carolina may have potential buyers for the Santee Cooper state-run electric utility—a deal which could finance restart of construction on the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear expansion.

The Charleston Post and Courier, Wall Street Journal and other outlets have reported that South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster and other officials have been shopping the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) around for a potential sale. Would-be suitors include units of Duke Energy, Dominion and Southern Co., among others.

If completed, the door would then be open to restarting work on the Summer nuclear units 2 and 3 in Fairfield County. The $25 billion construction project was killed last month  after years of cost overruns and a recent lack of response for pleas of federal help.

South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. (SCE&G), unit of SCANA Corp. ceased construction of the two new nuclear units in Jenkinsville, South Carolina and filed a petition with the Public Service Commission of South Carolina seeking approval of its abandonment plan.

This decision was reached by SCE&G after considering the additional costs to complete the units, the uncertainty regarding the availability of production tax credits for the project, the amount of anticipated guaranty settlement payments from Toshiba Corp., and other matters associated with continuing construction, including the decision of the co-owner of the project, Santee Cooper), to suspend construction of the project.

Based on these factors, SCE&G concluded that it would not be in the best interest of its customers and other stakeholders to continue construction of the project.

Following the bankruptcy filing of Westinghouse Electric Co. (WEC), SCE&G and Santee Cooper each began a comprehensive process of evaluating the most prudent path forward for the Units. The project owners worked with WEC and Fluor Corp., as well as other technical and industry experts, to evaluate the project costs and schedules.

Earlier this month, SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh and others testified before the South Carolina PSC about the abandonment plan. Marsh told regulators that the company and its partners went to Washington, D.C. seeking some kind of help to keep the Summer expansion going.

“We delivered our message very directly, very clearly, in terms of what we were looking for to support the projects,” Marsh testified. “We went as high as Rick Perry, Secretary of Energy, in the last meeting we had up there, and we’ve not gotten a response.”

Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter also made pleas to Washington, to no avail, the testimony indicates.

Customers have been paying higher rates to fund the work since 2009, while the project costs have ballooned to $25 billion.

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