South Carolina Nuclear Reactors Up in Smoke

FILE - This April 9, 2012 file photo shows the working nuclear reactor at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station in Jenkinsville, S.C. South Carolina Electric & Gas and Santee Cooper are building two new reactors on the site. More than half the power in South Carolina is generated by nuclear plants. On Monday, June 2, 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed that South Carolina reduce carbon dioxide emissions from other power plants in the state by more than half by the year 2030. (AP Photo/Jeffery Collins, File)

Billions of dollars spent on two new nuclear reactors in South Carolina went up in smoke Monday when the owners nixed plans to finish them after years of delays and cost overruns, dealing a severe blow to the industry’s future. The reactors were set to be among the first built in the U.S. in decades. While the decision will save customers billions in additional costs, customers of the two utilities, Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas, may get little to nothing refunded of the billions they’ve already paid for the now-abandoned project.

“I’m disappointed today not just for Santee Cooper and its customers but for our country and the industry as a whole,” said Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter. “If you really believe we need to reduce carbon, this was the way to do it.”

Energy demands are far less than the utility’s pre-Great Recession projections that factored into the initial decision to build. But Monday’s decision may eventually result in the utility putting a coal-fired unit idled earlier this year back in operation. Another option for supplying power needs in the decades to come include building a natural gas unit.