State senators on Tuesday began reviewing the cancellation of South Carolina Electric and Gas (SCE&G) and Santee Cooper’s nuclear reactor expansion at the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County.
The VC Summer Nuclear Project Review Committee held its first hearing, three weeks after the two utilities moved to abandon the project. More than 5,000 construction and nuclear employees lost their jobs as both utilities said they lacked the resources to continue after cost overruns, delays and the bankruptcy of lead design contractor Westinghouse.
Committee Co-Chair Nikki Setzler, D-Lexington, said it’s a complicated issue that will take time.
“No way that we will conclude in one or two meetings,” he said during Tuesday’s hearing. “So the membership is prepared throughout the fall to meet and deal with the issues that have been raised by this very difficult situation that we find ourselves in as a state.”
Fellow co-chair Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, said the series of meetings will look at how SCE&G got to the point of abandonment and what might be done. “We’ll try to keep it focused on right where we find ourselves right now,” he said. “And what opportunities there may be to salvage the project or not to salvage the project. Figure out where we are and what we can do immediately to try and address the situation.”
SCE&G’s plans to repay $4.9 billion in debt and abandonment costs through use a combination of tax deductions, settlement money with Westinghouse and customer power bills for the next 60 years. Santee Cooper has not yet come up with a plan to repay roughly $4 billion in debt the state-owned utility accumulated during construction.
Santee Cooper Board Chairman Leighton Lord told senators his agency is unlikely to find a buyer for its share of the project (the only way it could restart) without the state assuming the current debt. However, senators were adamant they would not allow taxpayers to cover the loss.
The CEO of SCE&G’s parent company Kevin Marsh was supposed to testify, but left before his turn began. Fellow executives said Marsh went to the hospital after feeling severe pain. A company spokesman later said the hospital treated Marsh for kidney stones and released him. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Addison and Chief Operating Officer Steve Byrne did testify as scheduled.