Southern Company and SCANA reached interim agreements with nuclear developer Westinghouse on Friday to continue construction on two nuclear plants as the developer works through bankruptcy proceedings.
SCANA and Santee Cooper, South Carolina's state-owned utility, agreed to an extension of an interim agreement with Westinghouse that will see the contractor continue construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear plant through June 26.
Southern Co. subsidiary Georgia Power also extended its construction agreement with Westinghouse on the Vogtle nuclear plant, but only until May 12. Both construction agreements were slated to expire at midnight on Friday, and the companies will use the extra time to evaluate if they should take control of construction from Westinghouse.
The utility teams building nuclear reactors in Georgia and South Carolina were scrambling Friday as they addressed the end of 30-day agreements with bankrupt Westinghouse Electric, the contractor for those plants.
Officials at SCANA and Santee Cooper, which are building two reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear station in South Carolina, reportedly said they would use the time to evaluate whether to take control of the project from Westinghouse or abandon it.
Westinghouse says years of delay in constructing that plant will add about $1.5 billion to its final cost. If that proves accurate, the Charlotte Business Journal reports the utilities would likely move forward with the project.
Southern Co. officials may have to make a similar decision about the Vogtle nuclear plant in Georgia, which only saw its construction agreement extended for a week and a half.
During that time, Southern subsidiary Georgia Power will continue to work on a final agreement structure with Westinghouse on the plant, which could see the developer "provide design, engineering and procurement services to Southern Nuclear as a part of their assumption of control over construction management."
Last week, Georgia Power objected to Westinghouse’s proposed use of intellectual property to back stop an $800 million loan to get it through bankruptcy. In a court filing, the utility warned that if the loan to Westinghouse were approved, the company could foreclose on the intellectual property and disrupt or even halt construction of the Vogtle project, according to MarketWatch.
Westinghouse’s bankruptcy has raised deep doubts over the fate of the only two new nuclear plants to be built in the United States in 30 years. Both nuclear projects are years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, which helped push Westinghouse into bankruptcy at the end of March and prompted parent company Toshiba to plan a split into four separate subsidiaries.
Both projects are also working against a Dec. 31, 2020, in-service deadline to be eligible for a $0.018/kWh federal production tax credit. Last week, SCANA officials told analysts that extending the deadline for those incentives could be key to completing the projects.