Nuclear Project in South Carolina will Hinge on Duke, Progress Buy-in – and a Prolonged Consumer Fight in North Carolina
Statement from NC WARN Director Jim Warren:
This Friday, the NRC is expected to approve a Construction and Operating License for two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at the VC Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina. The project, being developed by South Carolina Electric & Gas, is likely to hinge on Duke Energy and/or Progress Energy buying into it after a COL is issued.
This would require approval by the NORTH Carolina Utilities Commission, based on necessity and economic sense – a case the utilities simply cannot win. (70 percent of Duke’s and Progress’s Carolinas customers are in North Carolina.)
The Summer construction schedule will be impacted by a huge, year-long fight at the NC commission, which industrials and other consumer and environmental groups are likely to win for several reasons, including the new revelation that Duke Energy is now using natural gas for baseload demand. Also because Duke already has a large surplus of baseload supply that sits idle for much of each year.
SCE&G, state-owned Santee Cooper and SC politicians are reportedly pressing Duke Energy and/or Progress Energy to buy into the Summer project. (SCE&G and Santee are widely deemed too financially weak to attempt the complex project without a big utility as partner).
The Summer AP1000 project has already suffered delays and $380 million in cost overruns, with a certainty of more to come based on inherent complexities, changes required by Fukushima, and in accord with SCE&G’s own report in late February.
This is why even Wall Street gamblers won’t invest in new nuclear projects unless state electricity customers and/or federal taxpayers get stuck with the lion’s share of financial risks.
Delays and massive cost overruns at all three U.S. nuclear construction projects underway (including a TVA project that was partially completed in the 1980s), and at Progress Energy’s Levy project – where the price estimate quadrupled years before a license is expected – are exactly why utilities demand their political cronies saddle customers with the risks.
Also, Summer is impacted by the federal lawsuit against the AP1000 design, filed last month by NC WARN and eight other public interest groups. This month’s independent report on Fukushima bolsters a main premise of our suit: that the NRC has not analyzed the enormous risks posed by multiple units located near each other.
North Carolina ratepayers will not become suckers for a nuclear project that’s mired in massive cost problems while still in the cradle.