SCE&G pulls back request to abandon nuclear project, bill customers for losses


SCE&G's parent company on Tuesday withdrew its request to abandon construction of a financially beleaguered nuclear power plant project in the Midlands.

SCANA officials announced in a press release they have withdrawn a petition to the S.C. Public Service Commission seeking approval for scrapping construction of two new nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Fairfield County.

SCANA says it is withdrawing its request to abandon the project to accommodate a legislative review by a S.C. Senate committee formed Aug. 8.

The committee is tasked with analyzing all aspects of the project, from SCE&G and Santee Cooper's decisions, to the role of state government and Westinghouse.

SCE&G's petition to drop the project also sought affirmation from S.C. Public Service Commission that it had acted prudently in its handling of the nuclear project so as to justify raising customers' electric bills in order to get back $5 billion in losses over the next six decades.

SCE&G was sued Aug. 11 for negligence over its handling of the nuclear project, charging customers more than $1 billion in rate increases over several years, only to abandon it.

Santee Cooper, meanwhile, has dropped plans to institute new rate increases on its customers that would've gone into effect over the next two years.

SCE&G and Santee Cooper hold joint stakes in the project, with SCE&G holding the majority at 55 percent.

Both utilities voted July 31 to pull out of the nuclear project, citing financial concerns as the project was billions of dollars over-budget and years behind schedule.

The contractor building the reactors, Westinghouse, also filed for bankruptcy, further destabilizing the future of the project by putting. The delays also meant the utilities were likely not to get tax incentives.

"We have been meeting with governmental officials and various stakeholders since our announcement to abandon the new nuclear project," said Kevin Marsh, SCANA Chairman and CEO in Tuesday's press release. "The purpose of these ongoing meetings is to discuss their concerns and to explain the path that led us to the abandonment decision. While ceasing construction was always our least desired option, based on the impact of the bankruptcy of Westinghouse on our fixed price construction contract, the results of our evaluation of the cost and time to complete the project, and Santee Cooper's decision to suspend construction, abandonment was the prudent decision."

The first reactor was supposed to be up and running earlier this year, and the second was supposed to open by May 2018. Instead, the latest projections have the project not being completed until 2024. Construction is roughly one-third complete.

(The Associated Press contributed information to this report.)

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