Governor Henry McMaster (South Carolina) is exploring options on how to finish one of two nuclear reactors whose construction was halted last week, costing 5,000 workers their jobs.
One such option is to sell Santee Cooper — the state-owned utility that partnered with Cayce-based SCANA, the parent of SCE&G, to build the two reactors — or sell the public utility’s 45% ownership in the Fairfield County project.
SCANA and Santee Cooper’s directors voted last week to pull out of the project, unleashing widespread criticism. The two companies already have charged their customers about $2 billion to help finance the project.
State Senator Mike Fanning, a Fairfield Democrat whose district includes the reactor site, said he has met with McMaster, adding the governor is “absolutely” in favor of salvaging the project. “In his mind, everything should be on the table,” and he added that Governor McMaster thinks S.C. power customers deserve something in return for their $2 billion investment.
Other options, Fanning said, include; forcing state-owned Santee Cooper to reverse its decision to pull out of the project; enticing another utility to buy out Santee Cooper’s stake in the partially built reactors; requesting help from the pro-nuclear Trump Administration; or offering a state loan with strict stipulations.
SCANA chief executive Kevin Marsh has said his company, which owns 55% of the unfinished reactors, sought help from the federal government. “We did hear from the Department of Energy,” Marsh told the Public Service Commission last week. “They called and offered us a DOE loan”, which we had evaluated earlier, but that doesn’t help the situation we’re in at this time.
State Senator Paul Campbell, a former Santee Cooper board member, said he would like to see the project go forward. “I’m surprised the federal government has not stepped in and looked at this,’’ said Campbell, R-Berkeley. “If you don’t finish this project, you are telling the world we are done with nuclear power in the United States.’’