The decision to stop construction of two nuclear reactors in Fairfield County is very disappointing on a local, state and national level. It is also highly personal to those who worked on and supported the project and to those of us who are customers of SCE&G or Santee Cooper. The people of South Carolina deserve to fully understand how we got to this point. Santee Cooper appreciates efforts by our Legislature and governor to understand how we got here, and we will fully cooperate with them. We also welcome the chance to tell our story.
While there is a natural tendency to quickly apply blame, doing so without understanding is not healthy or right.
First, we need to remember that construction of new reactors was supported by the state of South Carolina and our federal government. Without the state Base Load Review Act, the project would have never started. Without the Congress providing single-application licensing, and production tax credits for new nuclear construction, the project would have never happened.
Second, Santee Cooper’s decision 10 years ago to invest in the project was for the right reasons. Our board had voluntarily set a goal to reduce Santee Cooper’s carbon footprint. At the time, the best way to do that was nuclear. Natural gas was four times as expensive as now, and renewables were twice as expensive as existing generation. In addition, demand for electricity before the great recession was growing. In the 10 years since then, all of that has changed.
Third, even with changed facts, we would have completed the new units if Westinghouse had lived up to its contract to complete the project for an agreed fixed price. Westinghouse failed to do what it promised it could do. Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy, and we learned that it could not complete the units for anywhere near the price it promised. . We learned that the price was at least $3 billion more than we agreed to pay, far too much for our customers to bear. Stopping construction saves Santee Cooper’s customers more than $7 billion in future costs.
The S.C. nuclear project was hit by a perfect storm. The loss of jobs, investment and future carbon-free generation is heartbreaking and frustrating. Santee Cooper will do everything in its power to mitigate the damage, including pursuing all claims arising out of Westinghouse’s actions.
Chairman, Santee Cooper Board of Directors