I got a note this morning from a reader who wanted to know whatever happened to the operating licenses SCANA had to make a decision about by Dec. 13. Actually, it was more than just idle curiosity. “I think I may be losing my mind,” he wrote, since he was sure he had read my column calling on Santee Cooper to find a way to accept the licenses, but hadn’t seen anything more about it since then.
It was a good reminder to get; I had been meaning to check on that for the past week, but just hadn’t gotten around to it. Fortunately, since it’s the Thursday before Christmas and I’m trying to get out of here for the holiday, reporter Avery Wilks knew the answer: Dec. 15 wasn’t a real deadline. It was a self-imposed deadline, and it was set artificially early, apparently to give SCANA some cushion. The actual deadline turns out to be Dec. 31, and SCANA decided to fall back to that one.
But as Avery explains, that’s a self-imposed deadline as well.
At issue is SCANA’s attempt to claim a $2 billion tax credit for having to abandon the two incomplete nuclear reactors at the VC Summer site. SCANA officials think that relinquishing the federal licenses to build and operate the plants will help it convince the IRS that it deserves the tax credit. SCANA could still try to claim that credit next year, but officials want to do it this year, for a variety of reasons, including the effects that the tax bill passed in Congress will have on the value of the credits.
What this means to South Carolina is that SCANA and Santee Cooper have until the end of the year to work out an agreement for Santee Cooper to accept the licenses. Santee Cooper is reluctant to accept them because of a lot of conditions SCANA has put on such a deal. But it will be impossible to ever complete the reactors without those licenses, and even if Santee Cooper doesn’t want to pursue that, it’s quite possible that at some point some utilities will again want to try nuclear, and those licenses could be worth a lot of money.
All of this makes those licenses are the most valuable thing the utilities have to show for the $9 billion they have sunk into the now-abandoned reactors.
Here’s a link to that column, along with some other columns you might want to read about the abandoned nuclear reactors:
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.