SCANA, regulators trade jabs over whether second critical report was kept secret

V.C. Summer Nuclear site in Fairfield County, S.C.
V.C. Summer Nuclear site in Fairfield County, S.C.

A state regulatory agency is asking SCANA to release an array of documents about its failed V.C. Summer nuclear project that the Cayce-based utility keeps on a website out of the public eye.

The state Office of Regulatory Staff’s call to release the documents, detailed in a letter Thursday to the state Public Service Commission, follows a dust-up between the regulatory agency and SCANA over an internal study critical of the nuclear expansion project.

ORS officials told The State newspaper last week that they had not seen the October 2016 study, done by the Fluor Corp., that found problems at the nuclear site.

What SCANA and regulators knew, and when, about the failed nuclear project is important because federal and state investigators are looking into the multibillion-dollar debacle. Fluor’s report was conducted for Westinghouse, the chief nuclear project contractor. SCANA and partner Santee Cooper are power companies that own the site.

This week, SCANA wrote the PSC to say the utility had told regulators about the Fluor report.

ORS officials now concede they had access to the report. But, they add, the Fluor study was buried on a private SCANA website where the large number of records made it difficult for regulators to determine which documents to examine. Access to the website also was limited to staff members approved by SCANA, regulators said this week.

SCANA and its SCE&G subsidiary do not allow the regulatory agency to download or print documents from the site, Regulatory Staff deputy director Nanette Edwards said.

“Given SCE&G’s desire to correct the record and to be open and transparent, ORS recommends and requests that all documents in SCE&G’s password-protected website related to V.C. Summer ... treated as nonpublic documents, be made public and available,” Edwards said in a letter Thursday to the PSC.

Edwards said she did know what documents are on the website, only that it contains “a large number” of records.

SCANA spokesman Eric Boomhower had no immediate comment.

However, SCANA was upset by Office of Regulatory Staff statements last week that the Fluor study had been kept secret by SCANA. The utility provided the regulatory agency access to the study on June 21, a month before efforts to build two new reactors at the V.C. Summer site were abandoned, according to a letter written Wednesday by SCANA’s legal counsel to the state Public Service Commission.

“We are writing to express the disappointment of South Carolina Electric & Gas Company ... concerning certain statements attributed to the S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff,” SCANA’s letter said, adding, “SCE&G is unaware that the public has been informed of ORS’ misstatements.”

Fluor’s 2016 study found that delays in obtaining equipment and workers with experience had made the project difficult to complete.

SCANA and its partner in the Summer project, the state-owned Santee Cooper utility, spent $9 billion and nearly a decade working to complete the two new reactors. They walked away July 31, leaving 5,000 construction laborers out of work and infuriating S.C. ratepayers, who had paid almost $2 billion toward the project’s cost.