Feds investigating Plant Vogtle nuke project’s twin in South Carolina

5:57 p.m Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017 Business and Money news
Plant Vogtle reactor under construction near Augusta. SCANA Corp. said Thursday that federal investigators are looking into a similar South Carolina project that was shut down in July. Photo: Georgia Power

SCANA Corp. said Thursday that federal investigators are seeking information on a South Carolina nuclear plant project that was shut down in late July.

The South Carolina utility said it received a subpoena from the U.S. Attorney’s Office seeking “a broad range of documents related to the project.”

The company said it would “cooperate with the government’s investigation.”

The Columbia, S.C., newspaper, The State, reported Thursday that a federal grand jury is investigating SCANA’s actions in relation to the failed nuclear project.

The move comes as the Georgia Public Service Commission voted Tuesday to begin a review of Georgia Power’s recommendation to continue building two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, near Augusta. It is virtually identical to the South Carolina project, and has been troubled by similar cost overruns and construction glitches.

Georgia Power owns about half of Plant Vogtle and the half-finished reactors, which used the same reactor designs, suppliers and contractors as the doomed South Carolina project.

The Vogtle expansion was more than three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget when its key contractor, Westinghouse Electric, filed bankruptcy in March due to losses on the two projects.

The two partners in the South Carolina project, SCANA Corp. and a state-owned utility, Santee Cooper, opted to abandon their unfinished $14 billion project, citing rising cost overruns, slipping electricity demand and expected delays and rising costs due to the Westinghouse bankruptcy.

Last month, Georgia Power recommended completing construction at Vogtle under the utility’s management, even though the disruptions due to the Westinghouse bankruptcy are expected to add more than two years of delays and more billions of dollars of cost overruns.

Its final price tag and build time are now projected to be roughly doubled, to up to nearly $28 billion and a late-2022 completion date, instead of $14 billion and 2017.

That includes about $4 billion in financing costs and tax reimbursements paid through surcharges on Georgia Power customers’ electricity bills.

The PSC, which has final say, is expected to make a decision in February, but most of the commission’s five members have already signalled that they don’t want to abandon the project.

Governor Deal said his office is marketing Georgia all over the world, trying to get new business and trying to get existing business to expand within the state.
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