Lawmakers in South Carolina have asked a state investigative team, the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), to look into potential criminal aspects of SCANA Corporation and South Carolina Electric and Gas management related to the V.C. Summer nuclear plant expansion project.
The two Westinghouse AP1000 reactor expansion project was canceled in late July with SCANA following along with state-owned utility Santee Cooper, a minority owner in the project, which had first decided to scrap the project.
Besides macro-economic issues, the primary concern, along with the 6,000 construction jobs suddenly evaporated, has to do with the $9 billion to $10 billion spent on the unfinished reactors, which would still have years of construction ahead of them if the project were to continue. Costs have skyrocketed, but most of the money already came from ratepayers, who can be billed for construction costs of nuclear power plants in advance of the projects being completed. As such, the ratepayers have no paid enormous sums for a project that looks, currently, like it may never be completed.
After several legislative hearings on the matter, leaders in the South Carolina House said Monday they had reason to believe SCANA or subsidiary SCE&G had misrepresented the project. In the letter to SLED, House Speaker Jay Lucas write, “We also believe that criminal fraud through the concealment of material information is also a plausible cause for the project's disastrous collapse.”
SCANA, which last week received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney's office in South Carolina, said it would cooperate with the SLED investigation. However, the letter to SLED said that the state's hearings are over and that it would no longer maintain contact with SCANA. At the same time, the letter to SLED said that the House was not cutting off communication with Santee Cooper, the state-owned utility that owns the minority share in the project.
Lawmakers also expressed concern over an investigation by The Post and Currier in which the newspaper said that engineers without proper certification worked on designing the nuclear power plant. That investigation, according to The Post and Courier on Monday, contributed to the lawmaker's decision to send the letter to SLED. Prior to Monday, the letter to SLED had been written, but there remained a chance it would not be sent. After the article that said certified engineers at Westinghouse worked on the project, lawmakers decided to send the letter to SLED calling for their own investigation.
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