- The South Carolina Public Service Commission (SCPSC) approved another cost increase for the two new V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station reactors under construction in the state, Reuters reports. The deal will increase the cost of the additions to South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) and the South Carolina Public Service Authority (Santee Cooper) to $6.8 billion.
- The SCPSC revised down the rate of return on investment for the expansion from 11% to 10.5%, and accepted completion for one of the units three years behind schedule, in 2019. The other new unit is expected in 2020, one year behind schedule.
- The SCPSC has approved at least eight rate increases to SCE&G customers since 2009, a total bill increase of 27.7%, or about $35.67 per month for an average 1,000 kWh per month customer.
The utility has attributed the delays and cost increases primarily to design and fabrication issues associated with the production of CAO1 submodules. Westinghouse originally claimed it could bring the reactors in on schedule by using a modular construction process in which large sections of the reactors would be built off-site and assembled on-site. It ran into problems when Chicago Bridge & Iron, the submodule maker, failed to deliver.
The profitable operational future of nuclear facilities is not promising, according to Vermont Law School Adjunct Professor Peter Bradford who, as an NRC Commissioner, licensed twenty nuclear plants. “Nuclear just doesn’t make the cut economically,” he recently told Utility Dive.
It is not low natural gas prices or negative power market prices that threatens nuclear, Bradford said. It is the increase in operations costs from between $0.01 per kWh and $0.02 per kWh to between $0.04 per kWh and $0.05 per kWh because of substantial capital investment needs.
Nuclear backers, on the other hand, say new plants like the one being constructed in South Carolina save customers money over an extended period of time and provide the added benefits of reliable, carbon-free power. A report released this week showed that widespread retirements of the nation's nuclear fleet, expected in the coming decades, could put carbon reduction goals proposed by President Obama's Clean Power Plan in jeopardy.
Correction: An earlier version of this post stated that regulators increased the guaranteed rate of return for SCE&G to 11% from 10.5%. That is incorrect. The utility's rate of return was reduced to 10.5%, and it is not guaranteed.