Huge cost of failed US nuclear plant ‘was avoidable’

By Mike Hayes07 September 2017

A report commissioned in 2014, has been released to the public, outlining major problems with the delivery of a US nuclear power project that was later abandoned.

Vc summer nuclear station

The Virgil C Summer Nuclear Generating Station in South Carolina, US

The report was produced in February 2016, by engineering and construction firm Bechtel, on behalf of utilities companies Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), which were at the time developing the Virgil C Summer Nuclear Generating Station in the state of South Carolina.

In it, Bechtel said the project was suffering from “major project management issues that must be resolved for project success”.

The report went on to say, “The overall morale on the project is low,” and, “There is a significant disconnect between construction need date and procurement delivery dates.”

State authorities currently investigating the reasons for the project’s failure are hoping the Bechtel report, with its analysis of the project and recommended changes, will help answer questions such as why construction of the reactors fell so far behind schedule and why costs ran so high.

At the point of abandonment, the utilities had jointly spent almost US$10 billion. According to statements from company executives, they felt they had no choice but to quit the project, after determining the cost for its completion, originally budgeted at $11 billion in 2008, had soared beyond $20 billion.

The public release of the report has instigated a round of finger-pointing in both political and commercial arenas, with, for example, Governor Henry McMaster being accused of sitting on the document to protect SCE&G, apparently one of his largest donors.

At the same time, the two utilities companies say the contractor primarily responsible for construction, Westinghouse, which declared bankruptcy earlier this year, had continually failed to provide them with a solid schedule of delivery.

State senators, however, allege the utilities have known for years about the problems, but failed to address them.

It is now reported that at least three lawsuits have so far been filed over the failed project.

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