Nuclear energy: Graham wants feds to pony up to revive failed SC reactors
The two uncompleted reactors were part of what was meant to be a renaissance of U.S. nuclear power construction after a 30-year hiatus.
Rather than individually customized like previous nuclear power plants, the South Carolina reactors and a pair still being built in Georgia are standardized Westinghouse models that would supposedly be cheaper and quicker to build.
“These reactors failing would be the end of a nuclear renaissance before it even started,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Graham and other lawmakers from both parties are urging Congress to extend a production tax credit that would provide billions of dollars to the South Carolina project and the two Georgia reactors. The House approved an extension in June, and Graham is pushing for a Senate vote after Congress returns from its August recess.
“I’m mad as hell that you spend all this money and you can’t get it done,” Graham said.
But critics warned they would cost more than their $14 billion estimate and take longer to complete. Sure enough, billions in cost overruns, construction delays, competition from natural gas, lower growth in electricity demand, and the bankruptcy of Toshiba-owned Westinghouse combined to force the project to be shuttered before it switched on.
“We’ve said it for eight years: These massive nuclear reactor projects were doomed from the start, and taxpayer money should not be risked on them,” said Ryan Alexander, president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, a watchdog group.
The nukes were granted $8.4 billion in federal loan guarantees. Now South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham wants Congress after the August recess to extend a production tax credit that would revive the reactor project.
The Georgia project has also been afflicted with cost overruns and missed deadlines. Its Atlanta-based Southern Co. owner has announced it will decide in the next few weeks if it will continue construction.
…SCANA CEO Kevin Marsh said he and other executives had “very direct discussions” with the White House and Energy Department, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and “explained the need for support for these projects because of the national security interest.”
A spokeswoman for Perry said the project’s failure has not dimmed Perry’s belief in nuclear power. “Secretary Perry remains optimistic about the future of nuclear energy in America and continues to watch this issue closely,” said spokeswoman Shaylyn Hynes.
The Energy Department invited the S.C. utility to apply for a loan guarantee, but “that invitation was ultimately turned down by the project’s representatives,” Hynes said.
Marsh, speaking at an Aug. 1 hearing before the South Carolina Public Service Commission, said a loan “doesn’t help the situation we’re in.”