Utility to pay millions to preserve abandoned reactor site

South Carolina's state-owned utility says it will pay millions per year to preserve equipment and parts at an abandoned nuclear reactor site.

Santee Cooper's acting board chairman told Gov. Henry McMaster in a letter on Wednesday that it expects to pay about $16 million annually to ensure that the two unfinished reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station aren't ruined, according to local media reports. The utility said it also plans to spend about $3 million per year for storage warehouses.

Santee Cooper's board will meet Friday and authorize maintaining and preserving the site, according to acting chairman William A. Finn's letter to McMaster. The board also will vote to assume ownership of SCANA's 55-percent stake in the site and its equipment.

Santee Cooper and SCANA subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas Co. abandoned the project last summer following the bankruptcy of lead contractor Westinghouse. Thousands of people were left jobless after the failure of the project, on which the two companies had already spent billions.

State leaders including McMaster have voiced concern for preserving the site, with hopes of ultimately selling the project or one day restarting construction. McMaster is also trying negotiate a sale of Santee Cooper to pay off its $4 billion in V.C. Summer-related debt.

The parts could possibly be salvaged for more than $860 million, according to some reports. SCE&G and Santee Cooper are expected to sell some equipment to Southern Co., the Georgia utility that's building a pair of identical reactors south of Augusta.

State lawmakers have said they want the option to sell them, using the money to defray the nearly $10 billion cost of abandoning the project.

"We're now in a position to control the destiny and preserve the property at V.C. Summer, so that's a very positive development," said state Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, who met Tuesday with Santee Cooper leaders and McMaster. "We may not be able to complete the reactors, but it at least ought to be kept on the table as an option."


Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com