Who pays for failed reactors?


Robert Meyerowitz for TheNerve.org

August 3, 2017

Last week, as the planned construction of two nuclear reactors in South Carolina was enveloped in doubt following the bankruptcy of their contractor, Westinghouse, news came of another planned rate-hike by one of the project’s two partners, the government-owned utility Santee Cooper.

Under the proposal, the Santee Cooper board would vote in December to raise rates for its residential electricity customers by about 10 percent over two years, in part to cover “costs associated with nuclear construction.” And with the hike, South Carolina would be poised to have the highest electricity costs in the country.

That was before the announcement that Santee Cooper and its partner in the reactors, SCE&G, would abandon the project.

Afterward, Santee Cooper Corporate Communications Manager Mollie Gore, asked if the proposed rate hike would be affected, said, via email, “The current rate proceeding addresses expenses we have already made.”

In other words, as Gore confirmed, Santee Cooper will continue to seek to recover the costs of the project, which are now the losses.

The decision to abandon the project came hard on the heels of a $2.2 billion payment offered to the partners by Westinghouse Parent Toshiba.

“We are committed to using the Toshiba settlement and any other resources we can collect through bankruptcy proceedings or elsewhere to offset costs to customers,” Gore said.

However, notes the Post & Courier‘s Andrew Brown today, “customers may have to pay for the steel and concrete that has already been sunk into the ground near Jenkinsville… In the case of Santee Cooper, they only have their customers to turn to when they need to pay a bill. They spent more than $4 billion in bond revenue on the project and somebody has to pay.”

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