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Westinghouse Electric furloughs hundreds in S.C., including Rock Hill

Santee Cooper exec Lonnie Carter explains decision to quit nuclear project

Santee Cooper, SCE&G abandon unfinished nuclear project after 9 years of work
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Santee Cooper, SCE&G abandon unfinished nuclear project after 9 years of work

As two South Carolina utilities cease construction of a pair of nuclear plants this month, over 100 manufacturing workers are being furloughed from their jobs at contractor Westinghouse Electric in Rock Hill.

The furloughs at the Westinghouse Electric office on Mt. Gallant Road are the result of South Carolina Electric and Gas and its partner Santee Cooper’s decision to abandon construction of a nuclear plant in Jenkinsville, S.C., near Columbia, according to a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) filed to the state.

After Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, the utilities building the South Carolina plant had originally hoped to still complete the $14 billion project in Jenkinsville. But they reversed course this month, scrapping the project in mid-construction. The plant was about $3 billion over budget and years behind schedule, Columbia’s State newspaper reported.

According to the WARN notice, 113 local workers are affected, most of whom work in field services. Another 561 Westinghouse workers will lose work temporarily at the V.C. Summer power plant in Jenkinsville, which is about an hour and 45 minutes southwest of Charlotte.

“This furlough is not a layoff – it is a company-initiated unpaid short-term leave of absence; not a loss of employment,” a Westinghouse spokeswoman said. “This was done so that employees could retain their benefits and employment status during the temporary furlough period.”

She added that the affected employees will be “separated from the company” if they receive no other assignment from the company before Aug. 31.

The Japanese company Toshiba Corp. bought Pennsylvania-based Westinghouse in 2006 as part of an effort to prioritize nuclear power, which is cleaner than generating electricity with coal or natural gas. But building nuclear reactors is prohibitively expensive, and Westinghouse has saddled Toshiba with mounting losses.

It is unclear whether the decision to stop construction of the South Carolina facilities affects Westinghouse operations in Charlotte.

A Westinghouse spokeswoman could not be reached for comment. Rick Rothacker and Bruce Henderson contributed.

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