Sorry, no customer refunds for now-abandoned nuke project

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Customers who have helped foot a multibillion-dollar bill for two new nuclear reactors won’t see a dime in refunds even though the project has been abandoned.

South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper customers have been paying for the reactors since 2009. Both utilities decided Monday to scuttle their project at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station north of Columbia after years of delays and cost overruns and the bankruptcy of its main contractor.

Executives with SCE&G’s parent company, SCANA, told state regulators Tuesday they will seek permission to recover its outstanding $5 billion in costs over 60 years.

Despite the continued expenses, which include securing the site, customers won’t see further increases for at least several years, said CEO Kevin Marsh. He could not specify how long. The company plans to use its share of a $2.2 billion settlement to offset hikes.

Sen. Mike Fanning, D-Great Falls, said customers have essentially thrown billions of dollars in the trash.

“They’ve abandoned the citizens of South Carolina who weren’t asked if they wanted to pay. They were required,” he said.

The project’s abrupt end angered regulators who green-lighted the project nearly a decade ago and approved yearly rate hikes that now make up 18 percent of residential electricity bills.

“It’s a grim day,” Public Service Commission Chairman Swain Whitfield told the executives. “Even your harshest critics have called it a sad day. I’m going to go further in saying public trust is at stake here.”

Commissioner Elizabeth Fleming said the news came “like a gut punch.”

She hopes the utilities can somehow revive the project. But Marsh said he’s tried unsuccessfully for months to find another partner. He said he’s also sought help from the Trump administration, but requests for a grant went unanswered.

Derek Anderson of Lexington said the utility should immediately take that 18 percent tab toward the scuttled project off people’s bills.

“I was pretty infuriated,” said Anderson, adding his monthly bill averages $170 for a single person in a well-insulated home. “Why should we be forced to pay higher rates because a bunch of morons and idiots work at SCEG?”

The project employs about 6,000 people in a rural county of fewer than 25,000 residents. That includes 650 SCE&G workers, who were informed Monday that they no longer have a job. Contracts are spread among more than 100 companies statewide, said SCANA CFO Jimmy Addison.

“This is going to shatter lives, hopes and…

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