Will SCE&G patrons be clipped again? Nuclear contractor keeps plans secret; regulators worry

Will SCE&G patrons be clipped again? Nuclear contractor keeps plans secret; regulators worry

Lexington County Chronicle
February 16, 2017

By Jerry Bellune

Regulators are worried by skyrocketing costs and long delays in S.C. Electric & Gas’s nuclear projects.

The S.C. Office of Regulatory Staff has been rebuffed in requests to see revised construction plans for the two new nuclear generators in Fairfield County.

The project is already two years behind schedule and billions of dollars in cost overruns, much of that passed on to customers.

Escalating costs and delays, according to Frank Knapp of the S.C. Small Business Chamber, have already exceeded the savings SCE&G promised its customers almost 10 years ago. But Westinghouse, supplier of the reactors, and its owners, Japan-based Toshiba, have kept a plan secret.

“They won’t let us see it, and that has heightened our concern about what’s going on,” said Dukes Scott.

Scott heads the agency which represents consumers in utility rate cases.

“That uncertainty is very frustrating and puzzling to us,” he said.

Others concerned

State’s regulators aren’t alone in this concern.

SCE&G and three other electric companies are closely watching Toshiba after cost overruns forced it to write off billions of dollars in losses on nuclear projects in the Midlands and in Georgia.

This caused speculation about the future of Toshiba’s nuclear business and the nuclear industry, too.

“We are in regular contact with Westinghouse and Toshiba on this matter and will continue to monitor activities very closely,” said SCE&G spokeswoman Rhonda O’Banion.

SE&G’s contractor Fluor Corp., has been working with Westinghouse since it bought the previous contractor CB&I Stone & Webster and has worked on a new schedule for months.

“If we can see the schedule,” Scott said, “we may be more comfortable.”