Projects to build two nuclear power stations in the US state of South Carolina are set to be scrapped.
The plants, which would have been among the first to be built in the US in three decades, have suffered cost overruns and delays running into billions of dollars in the nine years since they were first given the go-ahead.
Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G), are the projects’ developers, with Toshiba’s bankrupt nuclear power arm, Westinghouse, contracted to work on the plants’ construction.
Santee Cooper and SCE&G have now petitioned the Public Services Commission of South Carolina to be given permission to cease work on the two 1,117 MW reactors.
The move followed new estimates from Westinghouse and its subcontractor Fluor that work on one unit would not be completed until December 2022 and on the other until March 2024 – some four years later than the previous estimate.
It is reported that completing the project would have cost Santee Cooper around US$8bn, as well as $3.4bn in interest. The alternative was to write off the $4.7bn it had so far put into the project.
Lonnie Carter, Santee Cooper’s CEO, said, “After Westinghouse’s bankruptcy and anticipated rejection of the fixed-price contract, the best case scenario shows this project would be several years late and cost 75% more than originally planned. We simply could not ask our customers to pay for a project that has become uneconomical.”
Carter went on to say, “I’m disappointed today not just for Santee Cooper and its customers but for our country and the industry as a whole. If you really believe we need to reduce carbon, this was the way to do it.”
There is now only one nuclear expansion project remaining in the country, at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant in the neighbouring state of Georgia.
Westinghouse was also involved in the plant’s construction, before withdrawing due to its bankruptcy. Construction is only now moving forward following Toshiba’s agreement to aid the project to the tune of $3.7 billion.