Santee Cooper soon will begin working to preserve expensive equipment and parts at the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear construction site in Fairfield County, according to a letter its acting board chairman sent Wednesday to Gov. Henry McMaster.
The state-owned power company expects to pay about $16 million a year to make sure the unfinished twin nuclear reactors and their components – worth hundreds of millions of dollars – don’t go to ruin after Santee Cooper and investor-owned SCE&G abandoned a 10-year construction effort last July.
Santee Cooper also could spend another $3 million a year to continue leasing and insuring two massive warehouses full of unused nuclear equipment, according to a letter its acting board chairman sent Wednesday to Gov. Henry McMaster.
The issue is of grave importance to S.C. elected leaders, who want the parts preserved so Santee Cooper can sell them or restart construction.
“We’re now in a position to control the destiny and preserve the property at V.C. Summer, so that’s a very positive development,” said state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, who met Tuesday with Santee Cooper leaders and McMaster. “We may not be able to complete the reactors, but it at least ought to be kept on the table as an option. ... If you let that site deteriorate, you don’t keep that option on that table.”
Any hope of restarting the project depends on preserving the half-constructed reactors and equipment — on the site and in warehouses — needed to complete them. Lawmakers became concerned last fall when a state utility regulator said the project’s majority owner, SCE&G, was leaving the site unprotected in an effort to earn federal tax benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Lawmakers also want to maintain the option to sell the parts, which could be worth up to $1 billion, according to some estimates. That money could be used to defray the almost $10 billion cost of abandoning the nuclear expansion project, now being borne by SCANA and Santee Cooper customers.
Santee Cooper’s board will meet Friday and authorize maintaining and preserving the site, acting chairman William A. Finn wrote McMaster. The board also will vote to assume ownership of SCANA’s 55-percent stake in the site and its equipment, which the Cayce-based company offered to Santee Cooper late last year as it sought to walk away fully from the project.
McMaster picks the members of Santee Cooper’s board, and the Republican governor has said he wants the equipment and site preserved. He also is trying negotiate a sale of Santee Cooper to pay off its $4 billion in V.C. Summer-related debt.