Billions Down the Drain as New Nuclear Plants Scrapped - NBC 6 South Florida
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Billions Down the Drain as New Nuclear Plants Scrapped

The project has been shrouded in doubt since earlier this year, when primary contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Billions Down the Drain as New Nuclear Plants Scrapped
    Chuck Burton/AP (File)
    Parts of a containment building for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station is shown near Jenkinsville, S.C., during a media tour of the facility, Sept. 21, 2016.

    Billions of dollars spent on two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina went up in smoke Monday when the owners nixed plans to finish them after years of delays and cost overruns, dealing a severe blow to the industry's future.

    The reactors were set to be among the first built in the U.S. in decades. While the decision will save customers billions in additional costs, customers of the two utilities — Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas — may get little to nothing refunded of the billions they've already paid for the now-abandoned project.

    "I'm disappointed today not just for Santee Cooper and its customers but for our country and the industry as a whole," said Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter. "If you really believe we need to reduce carbon, this was the way to do it."

    Energy demands are far less than the utility's pre-Great Recession projections that factored into the initial decision to build.

    Olympians Share Their Most Embarrassing School Memories

    [NATL] Olympians Share Their Most Embarrassing School Memories

    From bad school pictures to awkward first day wardrobes, Team USA members can now look back on some of their most embarrassing school moments and laugh.

    (Published Friday, Aug. 18, 2017)

    But Monday's decision may eventually result in the utility putting a coal-fired unit idled earlier this year back in operation. Another option for supplying power needs in the decades to come include building a natural gas unit.

    "Absolutely, this pushes us back to more carbon, whether it's natural gas or coal," Carter said.

    Santee Cooper's board said the decision to end construction will save customers an estimated $7 billion. The utility had already spent about $5 billion for its 45 percent share of the project, and completing it would have cost an additional $8 billion, plus $3.4 billion in interest.

    "I'm not celebrating," said Tom Clements of Friends of the Earth, which has questioned the project from the outset. "This is a sad day for South Carolina. So much money has been wasted. Ratepayers are losers any way you take it."

    He said the group will work to "get to the bottom line of how this happened, who's responsible" and what that means for customers.

    Gov. Henry McMaster called for legislators to hold hearings to get customers' questions answered.

    2 Dead, 6 Injured in Knife Attack in Turku, Finland

    [NATL] 2 Dead, 6 Injured in Knife Attack in Turku, Finland

    Finland police said a man stabbed several people in Turku, Finland. Two people are confirmed dead and six others are injured. Police officers shot one suspect in the leg and took him into custody. Warnings were posted throughout the city for people to stay away from the downtown area.

    (Published Friday, Aug. 18, 2017)

    The project has been shrouded in doubt since earlier this year, when primary contractor Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection.

    The utilities have since determined the project likely wouldn't have been finished until 2024. Under a timeline adopted in 2012, the first reactor was supposed to be operational earlier this year. Westinghouse hasn't been forthright since, according to Santee Cooper.

    South Carolina Electric & Gas, which owns 55 percent, announced its plans shortly after Santee Cooper's unanimous vote. SCANA, SCE&G's parent company, will seek approval from regulators Tuesday about their abandonment plans.

    Under the approved Santee Cooper resolution, all work will end within six months. How quickly within that timeframe workers at the site will lose their jobs is uncertain.

    About 5,000 people are employed at the site by contractors and subcontractors. SCE&G employs an additional 600 workers for the project, according to the utility.

    The utilities announced last week that Westinghouse's parent company, Toshiba Corp., agreed to jointly pay them $2.2 billion regardless of whether the reactors are ever completed.

    Steve Bannon Out as White House Chief Strategist

    [NATL] Steve Bannon Out as White House Chief Strategist

    Steve Bannon has departed the White House, where he was President Donald Trump’s chief strategist. His tenure lasted seven months. White House chief of staff John Kelly and Bannon mutually agreed that Friday would be Bannon’s last day, according to a statement from the press secretary that said they were “grateful for his service.”

    (Published Friday, Aug. 18, 2017)

    Santee Cooper will use its $1 billion share from Toshiba — to be collected between October and 2022 — to lower customers' future costs, Carter said. But it's unclear if that will translate to lower bills. Rates are rising due to environmental projects, and the money could offset either those costs or debt, Carter said.

    SCE&G will use the money to ensure customers see no increase in their bills for at least the next several years, SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh told investors Monday afternoon.

    But another unknown is whether Toshiba will actually pay. In May, the Tokyo-based company projected a 1.01 trillion yen ($9.2 billion) loss for the fiscal year that ended in March.

    The reactors were planned for the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia. Construction contracts with Westinghouse were signed in 2008, and the project was so far about one-third completed.

    Environmental groups have called on state regulators to order SCE&G to abandon the projects. They also want customers to be refunded at least some of the billions they'd paid upfront through rates that have increased yearly since 2009. A hearing on that request is set for October.

    A 2007 state law allows electric utilities to collect money from customers to finance a project before it generates power. Construction now accounts for 18 percent of the electric bills of SCE&G's residential customers.

    Attack Kills 13, Police Kill 5 Suspects in Spain: Officials

    [NATL] 13 Killed in Car Attack in Barcelona; 5 Suspects Killed in Cambrils: Officials

    A white van jumped the sidewalk in Barcelona’s Las Ramblas district on Aug. 17, 2017. Police say 13 people have been killed and more than 100 injured in this terrorist attack. The area is one of the city’s top tourist destinations. Later, police shot and killed five terror suspects in Cambrils, Spain, in a separate incident.

    (Published Friday, Aug. 18, 2017)

    Santee Cooper has increased rates five times to pay for the escalating costs. But the Public Service Commission has no authority over the state-owned utility.

    Whether the commission can order the utility to refund customers and how much are matters of debate. That could require proof the utility gave regulators faulty information.

    Last month, Toshiba agreed to pay $3.7 billion toward two nuclear reactors in Georgia that also were being built by Westinghouse.