State-owned utility Santee Cooper said Monday it is releasing a report critical of the company’s failed VC Summer nuclear project to Gov. Henry McMaster and state legislative leaders as information continued to surface about the magnitude of problems that led to the demise of the project northwest of Columbia.
Board chairman Leighton Lord said the utility told McMaster’s office Sunday morning that it would give up the approximately two-year-old Bechtel report. And utility spokeswoman Mollie Gore said the document was picked up Monday by a governor’s office representative.
The report contains major concerns by Santee Cooper about progress on the project, well before the effort was abandoned this summer.
In the meantime, Santee Cooper released a five-page document over the weekend showing a litany of problems at the site. It shows some of the concerns in the Bechtel report, but is not part of the report, the utility said. The report released over the weekend mentions a series of deadlines that Santee Cooper wanted met and recommends a need for new project management for the nuclear power plant it was building with SCE&G.
Among other things, the five-page document indicates the utility companies were warned well in advance about serious problems plaguing the doomed South Carolina nuclear reactor project, the Associated Press reported. An independent analysis of the nuclear plant project advised Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. to hire someone to enforce contractor accountability, the wire service reported.
“We are not in a fight with the governor’s office, and we agreed yesterday morning to give it to him,” Lord said Monday of the utility’s decision to release the more extensive Bechtel report to the governor. Lord said his agency never had a problem with releasing it but needed to make sure it could legally.
McMaster’s office had no immediate comment Monday. Gore said Santee Cooper also would give the report to House Speaker Jay Lucas, R-Darlington, and Senate President Pro-Tem Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence. Leatherman and Senate leaders had threatened to subpoena the report if it were not released.
Santee Cooper’s chief legal counsel told McMaster in a letter Friday he was reluctant to release the report because it could hurt the utility’s chances in a lawsuit and that project partner SCE&G did not want to release it. McMaster then wrote a letter Saturday to Santee Cooper demanding the report and suggesting that failing to provide it would constitute “misfeasance,” justification for removing board members.
The report by Bechtel was written about two years ago. Lord told The State last week that the utility became concerned and recommended hiring an independent company to assess the V.C. Summer project.
Santee Cooper and SCE&G agreed July 31 to walk away from the nuclear reactor project after spending $9 billion and nine years on the effort. They blamed the bankruptcy of project contractor Westinghouse and costs that could have doubled the reactor project’s price tag of about $11 billion.
The project’s failure has caused an uproar in South Carolina. Customers of SCE&G and Santee Cooper have been charged more than $2 billion to pay for a twin reactor project that will now not be built. The effort in Fairfield County was to add two reactors to complement the site’s existing reactor.
Gore said Monday that the company’s five-page document from 2016 highlights some of the concerns from the earlier Bechtel report. The document, highlighted in a story that appeared Monday in The State, outlines a litany of problems that needed correcting.
“It is similar, non-privileged information, which should be as informative as the Bechtel report,” she said.
Eric Boomhower, a spokesman for SCANA, SCE&G’s parent company, told the AP in a statement the utilities had hired Bechtel “to assess challenges to progress on our jointly owned nuclear construction project in anticipation of litigation with Westinghouse.” After receiving the Bechtel report, Boomhower said, SCANA and Santee Cooper “established independent oversight and focused improvement initiatives on the project. Although the project continued to have challenges, those actions did result in improvement.”
Boomhower also told the wire service that the utility felt it necessary to keep the full report secret due to ongoing litigation over the plant’s failure and that “SCE&G intends to use the proceeds of any recovery in the Westinghouse bankruptcy proceedings to mitigate the impact of the abandonment of the new nuclear project on SCE&G’s customers,” adding that SCANA presumes Santee Cooper would act likewise.