A pair of nuclear reactors under construction in Fairfield County are falling further behind schedule and will likely require state approval to continue.
The two new reactors under construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Generating Station near Jenkinsville are part of a new generation of nuclear plants and just the second and third entirely new reactors approved since 1979. But the work has been plagued by delays the past few years as a construction consortium continues to struggle with a module assembly plant in Louisiana.
The State newspaper first reported the delays on Tuesday, noting the first reactor will now go online between late 2018 and mid-2019, with the second following a year later. Originally, the first reactor was to go online in March 2017. During a conference call with investors, SCE&G Chief Operating Officer & President of Generation and Transmission Steve Byrne said the new timeline will likely fall outside what state regulators previously approved. That means the state Public Service Commission would have to approve the new construction schedule.
Byrne said the utility would likely have a new timeline and cost estimates by the end of September. SCE&G originally projected the two reactors would cost $6.3 billion, but Byrne had said the project was under-budget prior to previous delays announced last year. The Public Service Commission previously allowed SCE&G to increase power rates for customers to help pay for the work.
The utility blamed continuing problems at a Chicago Bridge & Iron module plant in Lake Charles, Louisiana. Problems with deadlines have been occurring at the plant for two years dating back prior to CB&I’s purchase of the site from Shaw Group.
“From our perspective, the culprit on the delays so far has been the structural modules coming out of Lake Charles,” Byrne said.
Byrne did not elaborate on the specifics of the delay during the call, but has previously said he thought the Lake Charles plant was struggling to meet the strenuous regulations for manufacturing nuclear modules.
Nuclear critics like Tom Clements of the Savannah River Site Watch say the announcement should not be a surprise given the experimental nature of the nation’s newest reactors. “We have warned from the start of this risky project that it would face significant delays and cost increases,” he told The State. “So there is unfortunately no big surprise in SCE&G’s stunning news.”