Summer nuke owners accept $2.2B from Toshiba to continue construction
- Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas on Thursday accepted $2.168 billion from Toshiba to help cover the construction costs of the long-delayed V.C. Summer nuclear plant following the bankruptcy of nuclear development subsidiary Westinghouse.
- Completion of the plant is likely to require more money than the agreement provides, and the plant owners said in a statement they will soon decide whether to abandon completion of the two-reactor expansion.
- The deal follows a similar agreement between Toshiba and utility Southern Co. to provide $3.7 billion for the completion of the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia. Both plants suffered from problems with Westinghouse's AP100 reactor design, leading to delays and budget overruns.
The future of the only two new nuclear generators under construction in the United States remains uncertain, with utility leaders in South Carolina and Georgia facing tough decisions in the weeks ahead on whether to push on to complete major plants.
On Thursday, officials at Santee Cooper and SCE&G said $2.2 billion from Toshiba may not be enough to complete the 2,234 MW reactor, which is about two years behind schedule. The total cost of the plant is now approaching $16 billion, compared with an original estimate of about $9 billion.
Earlier this month, a report commissioned by environmental organizations cautioned that completion of the plant could cost an additional $10 billion if current levels of spending continue. The utilities did not comment on the estimate, but said in their statement that the total costs could "materially exceed" previous estimates by Westinghouse.
The companies also said they are unlikely to finish the plan before 2021, when federal tax credits for nuclear construction are slated to expire. Utility executives previously said that completion of the plant could hinge on the credits, which were extended in legislation passed by the U.S. House in June, but have not been taken up by the Senate.
Regardless of the tax credits, Santee and SCE&G face an Aug. 10 deadline to submit studies to regulators on completion of the plant, which remains less than half built. Critics, including environmental and consumer advocate organizations, say the utilities would be awash in excess capacity if the reactors are completed.
In Georgia, Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power plans to have a new cost estimate for completion of the Vogtle plant by August and could then decide whether to complete or abandon the project. The plant is the company's second project with major troubles; last month, it abandoned construction on the Kemper coal gasification plant in Mississippi.
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