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Santee Cooper sues SCANA over failed nuclear plants amid fraud, misconduct claims

VC Summer Nuclear Site, Jenkinsville, S.C. (SCE&G)

South Carolina's state-owned utility is suing its partner in a failed nuclear project, saying the privately owned South Carolina Electric & Gas committed fraud and misconduct that caused billions of dollars to be wasted on the unfinished reactors.

The lawsuit, filed this week, is the harshest rebuke by Santee Cooper since the project failed in the summer of 2017. Santee Cooper owned 45 percent of the reactors, while SCE&G owned 55 percent and had control of construction decisions.

Between the two companies, around $9 billion was spent on the reactors, which never generated a watt of power.

Santee Cooper says it started pleading with SCE&G in 2014 to improve oversight of the project's chief contractor, Westinghouse, but instead the private utility ignored problems and tried to hide reports critical of the lack of progress on the plants, according to the lawsuit, which was obtained by The State newspaper.

"SCE&G willfully and intentionally did not confront Westinghouse" about its "failure to manage the project in ways that would be effective," the filing said.

SCE&G said in a statement that it denies the allegations by Santee Cooper.

Santee Cooper's filing also detailed other steps the company said it took to warn SCE&G, including a 2014 email saying the state utility wanted to hire an additional construction expert to review the project.

SCE&G eventually hired Bechtel Corp. to assess construction but ignored a suggestion from the corporation to have more independent engineers and experts evaluate the project, the lawsuit alleges. SCE&G also fought Bechtel's draft of a final report and refused to release it to the public until South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster stepped in, Santee Cooper said in the suit.

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