A report by Institute for Energy and the Environment at Vermont Law School finds that continuing construction on the V.C. Summer nuclear project could add as much as $10 billion to South Carolina ratepayers’ bills.
The report argues for the abandonment of the project, saying that even though $9 billion has already been spent or committed, dropping Summer now would save significant amounts of money. The paper provides a preview of the testimony the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth plan to present to the South Carolina Public Service Commission in October.
- A separate report filed with regulators by plant owners Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas last year found that Santee's reserve margin could reach up to 44% once the reactors are completed, and SCE&G's could hit 27% before declining, according to The State.
The V.C. Summer nuclear project being built by South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper was already over budget and behind schedule when Westinghouse Electric, the project’s equipment supplier and contractor, went bankrupt.
The owners now face the tough decision of whether or not to push ahead with project.
The report from the Vermont Institute, "The Failure of the Nuclear Gamble in South Carolina," argues that the project should be abandoned and ratepayers should be issued refunds because of imprudence on the part of SCE&G.
The report draws on filings from the plant owners, saying the Summer plant would create "massive excess capacity" at both utilities. Santee Cooper told newspaper The State that it would use the additional nuclear capacity to draw down its reliance on coal generation, while SCE&G did not comment on its capacity plans.
According to the environmental groups, the additional capacity at the Summer plant is less than 40% complete, and the bankruptcy has added to delays. The report claims unauthorized spending continues at the rate of $120 million a month, and the overall cost is nearing $20 billion.
The report says abandoning the project could save ratepayers money, but admits it is difficult to determine how much could be saved because SCE&G has yet to determine the project’s final cost. The last firm estimate of project costs was about $14 billion, but the report cites an estimate by Morgan Stanley that put the final costs close to $23 billion.
The plant owners have until Aug. 10 to detail final costs of the project for regulators.
“It’s now time for South Carolina to admit failure,” Mark Cooper, the author of the report, said. “It was a mistake. It's an expensive mistake. It could become a catastrophic mistake if we don’t stop [spending] now.”
Cooper will be the principal witness for the environmental groups at the PSC hearing.