Major South Carolina Nuclear Project Goes Under

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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A South Carolina-based utility voted Monday to pull out of a $14 billion nuclear power project, marking another rough week for the nuclear industry.

The twin reactors were some of the last being built in the U.S., making their cancellation a huge blow to investment in nuclear power plants.

“We arrived at this very difficult but necessary decision following months of evaluating the project from all perspectives,” Kevin Marsh, chairman and CEO of the power company SCANA Corp which owns SCE&G, said in a press release. “Many factors outside our control have changed since inception of this project. Ceasing work on the project was our least desired option, but this is the right thing to do at this time.”

The board of directors of the power companies Santee Cooper and  SCE&G voted to withdraw from the $14 billion dollar project to build two new reactors at the V.C. Summer power plant northwest of Columbia, S.C. This effectively ends the project and could place other reactors under construction in the U.S. at risk.

Shutting down reactors will end roughly 5,000 jobs involved in the construction.

Marsh blamed rising costs, falling demand for electricity, construction delays and the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse this past spring for the failure of the project. Westinghouse managed the project, which was two years behind schedule and $4.2 billion over budget.

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. Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection in late March. Toshiba turned an estimated profit of $1.2 billion in 2016, but the company is considering formally listing U.S. nuclear companies that it purchased as a net loss, then investing more into other companies. Toshiba says that Westinghouse has racked up a debt of $9.8 billion.

Another pair of South Carolina reactor at Vogtle managed by Westinghouse are also at risk, as they’re roughly three years behind schedule and $3 billion over their original budget. The Vogtle reactors are about 60 percent complete, according to Southern Company.

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