State regulators say SCE&G can revise schedule for nuclear reactor project

State regulators on Wednesday approved SCE&G's request to make schedule changes for its reactor project at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville.

The utility said it needed to revise some internal milestones - including equipment and material delivery dates - in the original plan approved by the Public Service Commission.

"The commission's decision simply allows us to shift some of the milestones within the previously approved project schedule to reflect the greater certainty we now have regarding things like equipment procurement dates, delivery commitments with vendors and suppliers and so on," said Eric Boomhower, spokesman for South Carolina Electric & Gas, principal subsidiary of energy provider SCANA Corp.

Changes in the schedule won't affect the project's completion date or $9.8 billion price tag, officials said.

Last February, the commission signed off on SCE&G's proposal to build two 1,117-megawatt reactor units at the Jenkinsville facility.

SCE&G and its state-operated partner, Santee Cooper, currently operate a 966-megawatt unit, which began commercial operation in 1984.

Friends of the Earth, an environmental group that has contested the nuclear project, had urged commissioners to deny the schedule revision. The group charged that changing the schedule could lead to delays in the project's completion and higher costs.

"It appears the PSC is granting SCE&G endless delays in this project and that's extremely detrimental to the ratepayer," said Tom Clements, the group's spokesman.

In some instances, sticking with the original dates would have required the utility to store or warehouse equipment and materials until needed for the project, SCE&G said in documents with the commission.

The revised schedule also increases the number of milestones to 146 from the original 123 originally approved by the PSC.

The additional milestones should make it easier to track the project's progress, said Mark Crisp, a consultant for the state Office of Regulatory Services. The agency is responsible for looking out for the interests of ratepayers, the utility and state.

SCE&G is seeking permission from the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to build the reactor units. A final OK is more than a year away.

Completion of the first unit is set for April 2016, with the second unit beginning operation in January 2019.