Utilities hope to finish SC nuclear plant despite Westinghouse bankruptcy

Work was underway at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, S.C., in this 2013 photo.
Work was underway at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, S.C., in this 2013 photo. kkfoster@thestate.com

The utilities building a new nuclear power plant in South Carolina say they hope to complete the $14 billion project despite the bankruptcy Wednesday of contractor Westinghouse Electric Co.

SCANA has a 55 percent stake in the two nuclear reactors Westinghouse is in charge of building at the V.C. Summer power plant northwest of Columbia. State-owned Santee Cooper owns the other 45 percent.

The utilities said in a statement that, anticipating a bankruptcy, they have worked with Westinghouse on an agreement to continue work at Summer while the utilities decide how to move forward.

“Our commitment is still to try to finish these plants; that would be my preferred option,” SCANA Chairman and CEO Kevin Marsh told financial analysts Wednesday. He added: “It’s early in the process (and) way too premature to say this is the option we’re going to end up with.”

If the plant is canceled, he said, the utility will still need the electricity the reactors would have generated.

The Summer plant is about $3 billion over budget and years behind schedule, Columbia’s State newspaper reported.

Westinghouse, whose nuclear reactors are used worldwide, is also leading construction of two reactors at the Vogtle power plant in Georgia that is owned by Southern Co.

Both would use the new Westinghouse AP1000 reactor, which was touted as a safer, cheaper option to older designs. Duke Energy had also planned to use the AP1000 if it moves forward with the Lee nuclear plant in Cherokee County, S.C.

The industry had hoped the designs would usher in a nuclear renaissance to replace the aging U.S. fleet. Instead the Japanese company Toshiba Corp., which bought Westinghouse’s nuclear business in 2006, has written off $6 billion in U.S. nuclear-related losses.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender