Efforts to build two state-of-the-art nuclear reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant in Fairfield County have gone inert.
Citing escalating costs, uncertainty over tax credits and the amount of Toshiba's recent financial pledge, SCANA Corp., the majority partner at V.C. Summer, said in a statement it plans to file a notice of abandonment with state regulators.
The decision follows a similar by minority partner Santee Cooper to suspend construction efforts. Santee Cooper said doing so would save its customers $7 billion.
"SCE&G concluded that it would not be in the best interest of its customers and other stakeholders to continue construction of the project," the SCANA news release said.
SCANA said it plans to file a petition with the S.C. Public Service Commission seeking approval of its abandonment plans. A previously scheduled briefing before the PSC is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday.
SCANA and Santee Cooper have sunk billions of dollars into building two AP1000 reactors at V.C. Summer.
A mushroom cloud of uncertainty has swelled over those plans since March, when lead contractor Westinghouse filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Toshiba, the parent company of Westinghouse, had pledged $2.17 billion in guaranty payments to SCANA and Santee Cooper. It's also pledged about $3.5 million for Plant Vogtle in Burke County, Georgia, where two additional AP1000 reactors are being built.
There are no plans to abandon the Plant Vogtle reactors.
V.C. Summer is about 37 percent complete. It's billions of dollars over budget, years behind schedule and not likely to be finished by Jan. 1, 2021, the deadline to receive tax credits.
SCANA has sought and received approval for at least nine electric rate hikes since 2008 to pay for the reactors. Collectively, the hikes account for about 18 percent of a customer's standard electric bill.
It was not immediately clear whether SCE&G customers would receive refunds or rebates for those rate hikes now that SCANA plans to discontinue building the reactors.
Green groups opposed to V.C. Summer declared victory shortly after news the reactors would be abandoned became public.
“We applaud Santee Cooper and SCE&G for making the right decision to protect their customers," Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said in a statement.
"This project has been a multi-billion dollar disaster," Smith continued. "We also call on Georgia Power and their utility partners to protect their customers from the similarly risky, mismanaged project in Georgia at Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle.”
Representatives for Friends of the Earth, which has also called for a V.C. Summer shutdown, say consumers who helped pay for the reactors deserve refunds.
"The damage that this bungled project has caused to ratepayers and the state’s economy must be promptly addressed by SCE&G, Santee Cooper and regulators and all effort must be made to minimize that damage," Tom Clements, a senior advisor for Friends of the Earth, said in prepared comments.
"It’s time for money to be refunded as it was collected from them under the false pretense that advance payment for the nuclear project was sound," Clements said.
In its statement, Santee Cooper said it has spent $4.7 billion thus far in construction and interest for its share of V.C. Summer. Santee Cooper is a 45 percent owner while SCANA owns the remaining 55 percent.
It would cost Santee Cooper more than $11 billion to complete the reactors, the state-run utility's statement said.
Delays in construction caused costs to swell 143 percent, the utility said.