Scana Corp., owner of two reactors under construction at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina, announed on August 12th that the anticipated schedule for completion of unit 2 at one of the new nuclear plants that was licensed during the “nuclear renaissance” a few years back has now been pushed back, from its original start date of March of 2017 to as late as the first half of 2019. The company has not yet provided cost estimates associated with the new schedule, but three days later, Fitch revised the Rating Outlook for each entity to Negative from Stable.
In March 2012 V.C. Summer received its licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and construction began shortly after. Since then, six rate increases have been imposed on South Carolina ratepayers and the project is now eating up 11% of utility bills with no benefit in sight for quite some time. Fitch is particularly concerned about the extent of the potential cost increase and the utility’s willingness to have rate payers shoulder the entire burden.
Problems at the troubled Vogtle nuclear reactor project in Georgia had been getting all the national headlines, but South Carolina Electric & Gas’ V.C. Summer reactor project is now giving the well-publicized nuclear debacle in Georgia a run for its money.
At the time these plants were trying to get licensed, both South Texas (nuclear) Project (south of Houston) and Comanche Peak (west of Fort Worth) had put in license applications for expansions of two new units at both locations. The cost overruns and construction delays of the initial plants and the problems at the current new projects in the United States are a good indicator that Texas expansions would have faced the same issues had the licenses gone forward.
Still we must be vigilant as STP is still pursuing the expansion license in spite of the fact that the project is predominantly controlled by a foreign (Japanese) company, which is against the law. Nevertheless, an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board recently ruled in favor of granting STP a new license despite NRC staff opposing it. The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition has been party to a suit to opposed the licensing (with assistance from Public Citizen and a local group – STARE) but will be needing additional funds to appeal the recent ruling.