Stopping V.C. Summer Expansion Has Ripple Effects

When you throw a stone in a pond, there's a ripple effect. But if your project is large enough, when you stop throwing rocks in the pond, there is also a ripple effect.

V.C. Summer NPPSuch is the case with the decision by South Carolina Electric and Gas Company and partner Santee Cooper to stop construction of two new Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear power plant in Jenkinsville, S.C. The ramifications of stopping the project appear to have more ripples on the surface than might have occurred had the project continued.

There is very little chance of that happening, although two scenarios are possible. While chances are slim, the state's Public Services Commission could deny the companies petition to abandon the project. The two companies petitioned for the option to stop the project on Tuesday. At the hearing, PSC Chairman Swain Whitfield said the project cessation will “shatter lives, hopes and dreams.”

Also given a negligible chance: Fresh financing could appear. But the companies have certainly explored all those options prior to this point. On Monday, they said the project was dead.

With the announcement, 6,000 construction workers were suddenly out of work. About 650 of the workers were SCE&G employees assigned to the project.

In addition, the two reactors could be expected to have created about 900 permanent jobs and hundreds of outage-related temporary jobs had the project been completed. 

While stopping the project was said to save ratepayers in South Carolina $7 billion, the companies have said they would seek to recoup losses on the project – about $5 billion which was borrowed to finance construction, according to WBTW news.

That would entail an almost 5 percent rate hike for Santee Cooper customers in 2018 and 2019, according to company spokeswoman Susan Mungo, who said the decision to stop construction was done “in the best interest of our customers.”

Currently, the V.C. Summer expansion project is responsible for about 8 percent of Santee Cooper customers' residential electricity bills and 18 percent of SCE&G customer bills. This was made possible by a 2007 state law that made the construction project possible at all by allowing utilities to pre-charge customers for project costs.

Santee Cooper's board of directors is expected to vote on a rate hike in December. The company, meanwhile, plans to hold five public meetings in August to discuss this option. After paying for a project that has already absorbed about $9 billion, these meetings could include emotional reactions from disappointed ratepayers.

Legislators in South Carolina have given the press advanced notice that they will on Wednesday announce the formation of an energy caucus. Rep. James Smith called the decision to abandon the project in Jenkinsville “catastrophic.”

The rate hikes, meanwhile, will save customers from having to face steeper rate hikes in the future, Mungo said. The plan at this point is to ease the payments for construction expenses onto customer bills by stretching the repayment plan to a period of 60 years, coincidentally the same amount of years that the new reactors could have been up and running.

Anonymous comments will be moderated. Join for free and post now! 

  • Anonymous

    Very sad that the costumers get screwed   the workers get screwed but all the Suits at Westinghouse got bonuses .

  • Anonymous

    This is not the fault of SCEG or Santee. Westinghouse is primarily at fault for underbidding and miscalculating the cost to the utilities. Westinghouse got off the hook when the filed bankruptcy and left the utilities holding the bag.