Opinion Extra

Why we made the tough choice to end SC nuclear project

SCE&G and VC Summer: By the numbers

Timeline of the effort by SCE&G, Santee Cooper and Westinghouse to build two more reactors at VC Summer nuclear station in Fairfield County
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Timeline of the effort by SCE&G, Santee Cooper and Westinghouse to build two more reactors at VC Summer nuclear station in Fairfield County

To our customers, employees, regulators and governmental leaders, I want to express that I am deeply disappointed and sorry that we were unable to complete the new nuclear units. You put your trust in us to build these units in order to bring additional clean, reliable energy to our state.

Our recent announcement to abandon construction was made only after thoughtful consideration, but that doesn’t change the fact that it greatly impacts the lives and livelihoods of many individuals, families, communities and businesses. I understand your frustration and share in your disappointment.

I am disheartened that our primary contractor, Westinghouse, filed for bankruptcy in March, less than 18 months after we successfully negotiated a fixed-price contract with it in 2015. That negotiation was specifically designed to protect you — our customers — from further construction cost increases while we focused on South Carolina’s clean, reliable energy future.

At the time, Westinghouse was a respected international company with a long history of credibility. Unfortunately, we know today that it will not be living up to its pledge to complete the construction for a fixed price.

While Westinghouse’s bankruptcy destroyed the protections we fought so hard for, we did gain access to valuable information that Westinghouse had not previously made available. We combed through volumes of the company’s documents, contracts and other data to project the costs of moving forward with construction.

MarshKevinVert
Kevin Marsh provided

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SCE&G and VC Summer: By the numbers

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The results revealed that the increase in costs to complete the project would likely be three times more than Westinghouse’s projection. Three times more. Clearly completing both units would be too costly for customers. Our revised projected completion of the project pushed the timeline to the end of 2022 for Unit 2 and early 2024 for Unit 3. This delay obviously added to the cost projections.

Again, I understand and share in your frustration.

Knowing full well the critical importance that nuclear power plays in a clean-energy future, we continued to work diligently with our project co-owner, Santee Cooper, to determine an economically feasible path to complete one unit.

The weight of releasing a nuclear construction project workforce is heavy.

Santee Cooper — with its own set of business considerations — came to a decision and informed us it would be suspending construction of both units. In the best interest of our customers, SCE&G couldn’t move forward with construction alone under those circumstances.

It’s deeply disappointing to end this project. I would much rather have a workforce of approximately 600 SCE&G employees and an additional workforce of about 5,000 contractors continuing to work on our project rather than to watch them have to abandon what we all wanted to see completed.

The weight of releasing a nuclear construction project workforce is heavy. We are helping our impacted SCE&G employees with career transition services.

Thank you to all of the great S.C. businesses that have stepped forward to let us know about employment opportunities within their companies for our displaced employees.

Customers will get all of the benefits from the anticipated proceeds from the settlement for the failure of Westinghouse to complete the project.

While our business decision was clear, the impacts are beyond facts and numbers. This is affecting people and businesses, and ultimately your trust in us. I understand.

Halting the project is not the path we wanted to choose, at all. It is, however, the right thing to do, and we will conduct this transition in a manner consistent with the high standards you have a right to expect.

We have committed to the S.C. Public Service Commission that customers will get all of the benefits from the anticipated proceeds from the Toshiba settlement for the failure of its affiliate, Westinghouse, to complete the project.

Thank you for your patience. We are committed to continue serving you well.

Mr. Marsh is CEO of SCANA Corp., the parent company of SCE&G; contact him at KEMarsh@scana.com.

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