Toshiba agrees to pay to walk away from nuclear project

Utilities in Georgia and SC are preparing to publicly say whether they will finish their reactor projects and how much that will cost.

Now, the two utilities are pulling the plug.

The decision follows a similar by minority partner Santee Cooper to suspend construction efforts. "The analysis shows the project would not be finished until 2024, four years after the most recent completion date provided by Westinghouse, and would end up costing Santee Cooper customers a total of $11.4 billion", it said in a statement.

Green groups opposed to V.C. Summer declared victory shortly after news the reactors would be abandoned became public.

SCE&G is part of SCANA, based in Cayce. "We simply can not ask our customers to pay for a project that has become uneconomical". Ultimately, our project co-owner Santee Cooper's decision to suspend construction made clear that proceeding on our own would not be economically feasible.

The project has been plagued by billions of dollars of cost overuns, stagnant demand for electricity, competition from cheap natural gas plants, and the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the lead contractor and the designer of the AP1000 reactor that was supposed to be the foundation of a smarter, cheaper generation of nuclear power plants. "Ceasing work on the project was our least desired option, but this is the right thing to do at this time".

SCANA CEO Marsh said in a statement earlier Monday: "Many factors outside our control have changed since inception of this project". Collectively, the hikes account for about 18 percent of a customer's standard electric bill. Santee Cooper's Board approved a $5.1 billion budget, representing its 45 percent share of the joint project and additional transmission needed for the Santee Cooper electric system.

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They said they hope to decide soon whether they will continue with the two projects, modify them or abandon them.

Clements says his group will ask state regulators to reduce rates so consumers don't have to pay for the failed project. And none had begun construction since an accident at Pennsylvania's Three Mile Island site in March 1979 gave regulators and utilities pause.

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

The Georgia project, led by a unit of Southern Co, is now the only new US reactor under construction since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979. Santee Cooper said it has spent about $4.7 billion so far, and that halting the project would save ratepayers $7 billion.

According to SCE&G's analysis, the additional cost to complete both units beyond the amounts payable in connection with the engineering, procurement, and construction contract would "materially exceed" prior Westinghouse estimates, as well as the anticipated guaranty settlement payments from Toshiba.

Abandoning the project will cost $4.9 billion, for which SCANA will seek recovery.

SCANA, parent of utility South Carolina Electric & Gas, and its partner, state-owned utility Santee Cooper, said Toshiba will make the payments in installments beginning in October and ending in September 2022.

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