Environmentalists Ask Regulators To Kill Two Nuclear Power Plants

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Environmental groups will soon petition South Carolina regulators to shut down a pair of partially-completed nuclear reactors.

The Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth (FOE) will ask the Public Service Commission (PSC) Thursday to “immediately cease” construction of the pair of nuclear reactors. Activists claim finishing the reactors will enable more “wasteful” spending the state could use to support green energy, not nuclear power.

“The V.C. Summer project’s problems have been widely reported by the media, including a declaration of bankruptcy by Westinghouse, the reactor vendor,” FOE said in a statement. “Construction is only 37% complete and ratepayers have been put on the hook for billions of dollars to finance and construct the reactors since approved by the PSC in 2009.”

The Summer reactors represent half of all U.S. commercial nuclear power reactors under construction, according to the World Nuclear Association. The reactors are two years behind schedule and $4.2 billion over budget. Both reactors will enter service in 2020 and their cancellation would endanger an estimated 5,000 jobs.

PSC is handling the issue because nuclear power generates 54 percent of all electricity produced in South Carolina.

Toshiba purchased the American nuclear company Westinghouse in 2006 for about $5.4 billion and added another nuclear engineering firm called Chicago Bridge & Iron’s (CB&I) last December for $229 million. This placed the Japanese company in charge of the project. Toshiba clarified earlier this month that it’s “still in negotiations” with the Summer project’s owners.

Toshiba is also behind a pair of half-finished nuclear reactors in Vogtle, Georgia. The Vogtle reactors are roughly three years behind schedule and $3 billion over their original budget. Toshiba will invest about $3.7 billion into completing the Vogtle reactors after delays and unexpected costs increases plagued their construction while transferring management of the project to Southern Company, an American utility after Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in late March.

The future of both the Summer and Vogtle nuclear power plants is dubious because Congress did not include a provision extending tax credits for nuclear power in the $1.1 trillion spending bill intended to keep the government funded through September. South Carolina’s two Republican senators, Scott and Lindsey Graham, were shocked when expansion of the tax credit was rejected and have already introduced legislation extending the tax credit to 2025.

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