Facing those pressures, the two owners of the project, South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper, announced they would halt construction rather than saddle customers with additional costs.
“Many factors outside our control have changed since inception of this project,” Kevin Marsh, the chief executive of Scana Corporation, which owns South Carolina Electric & Gas, said in a statement. “Ceasing work on the project was our least desired option, but this is the right thing to do at this time.”
A decade ago, industry officials were predicting a “nuclear renaissance” in a country that had not broken ground on a new reactor since the 1970s.
The South Carolina utilities selected an advanced reactor design from Westinghouse Electric Company, the AP1000, reported to have more safety features than earlier models. The utilities planned to build the two reactors next to an existing nuclear unit at the V.C. Summer plant in Fairfield County.
But pitfalls soon followed. Construction began before Westinghouse, a subsidiary of Toshiba of Japan, had finalized its AP1000 design, and several safety changes had to be made midway through the process. Engineers struggled with the complicated, novel project, as various components needed to be reworked.
“This was a first-of-a-kind project, so it was always going to be hard,” said Rich Powell, executive director of the ClearPath Foundation, a clean-energy group in Washington. “But you can also see this as a symptom of a broader problem. We’ve let our nuclear industry atrophy for 30 years, and we’ve lost the robust supply chains and expertise needed” in building reactors.
In 2015, Westinghouse took over as lead contractor on the South Carolina project after buying out its partners, but analysts say the company did not have sufficient expertise in handling large construction projects.
In March, faced with mounting losses at its nuclear endeavors in South Carolina and Georgia, Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy. Toshiba agreed to chip in $2.2 billion in exchange for being released from the South Carolina project, but utility officials said that was unlikely…