Utilities Pressed On Plans For #NukeGate Site

What do you do with a $10 billion hole in the ground?

An environmental group is pushing for South Carolina utility SCANA to publicly announce its plans for the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear power station expansion site – a.k.a. the $10 billion hole in the ground at the center of the Palmetto State’s still-cascading #NukeGate scandal.

The group – Friends of the Earth – made no mention of government-run utility Santee Cooper, which is (or was) a forty-five percent partner in this recently scuttled project.

In fact it was actually Santee Cooper’s decision to back out of this deal that unleashed #NukeGate on the state nearly three months ago …

To recap: These two utilities spent the past decade collaborating on a massive nuclear power plant project in Jenkinsville, S.C.  This project was supposed to have produced a pair of next-generation AP1000 pressurized water reactors at a cost of $9.8 billion.  The money was spent, but the reactors were never finished.  In fact they’re not even half-finished – with the cost to complete them ranging anywhere from $9-16 billion.

Unable to pony up that kind of cash, Santee Cooper pulled the plug on the deal on July 31 … killing an estimated 5,600 jobs, squandering billions of dollars in investment (including more than $2 billion raised through rate increases on consumers) and throwing the state’s energy future into chaos.

Documents released recently revealed executives at the two utilities knew over a year-and-a-half ago that the project was doomed – yet continued to raise rates on consumers anyway.

Both utilities are currently facing a flood of lawsuits related to the failed project, and both are currently the subjects of ongoing multi-jurisdictional criminal investigations.

Meanwhile the politicians who presided over this spectacular command economic failure have been busy trying to “investigate” what amounts to a disaster of their own making.

In the meantime, Friends of the Earth – which published new aerial photos of the facility taken earlier this month – wants SCANA’s subsidiary, SCE&G, to break its silence as to whether the reactors in question “are being abandoned or are being mothballed.”

“SCE&G must publicly release its plan about what is happening at the abandoned site, which looks like a nuclear scrap yard,” said Tom Clements, senior adviser with Friends of the Earth.  “As SCE&G is incurring costs due to unknown activities at the site the company is assuming risks for any unauthorized spending taking place at the site.”

According to the organization, its aerial photos raise all sorts of questions …

(Click to view)

(Via: High Flyer)

“Unidentified commodities lacking protection from the weather can be seen all across the site and in storage yards,” the group’s release noted.  “It is unknown if these materials will be stored, auctioned for use or sold as scrap.  It is believed that valuable components, such as valves and pumps, are stored in the many tents on the site and that they are being serviced to prevent them from freezing up.”

The group also noted that “costs now being incurred at the site have not been presented to the South Carolina Public Service Commission for approval and are thus being incurred at the risk of the company.”

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is one of several state government entities that utterly failed taxpayers and ratepayers over the ten-year duration of this project.  Another failed bureaucracy is the Public Utility Review Commission (PURC), which was supposed to protect consumers by overseeing the political appointees chosen to regulate the energy industry – and specifically this project.

Numerous members of that committee are currently serving on the legislative “cover-up committees” currently tasked with “investigating” this debacle.  Even worse, numerous members of these committees also served as lead sponsors for the constitutionally dubious “Base Load Review Act,” which is the legislation that empowered the utilities to effectively socialize their investment risk related to the reactors’ construction.

South Carolinians are still paying $37 million per month in higher energy costs (to SCANA alone) as a result of that law – even though it’s highly unlikely the reactors will ever be built.

(Meanwhile, over in Georgia …)

Bottom line?  This could wind up being the most expensive failed government experiment in South Carolina history.



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