Embattled utility Santee Cooper, one of the primary owners of the canceled V.C. Summer nuclear expansion, has been in talks with a foreign group about possibly restarting construction on the controversial project even as South Carolina legislators plan to sell the state-run utility in 2020.
“There is a party from the outside that is interested in the potential to restart V.C. Summer,” said newly appointed Santee Cooper CEO Mark Bonsall in an interview with The State newspaper earlier this month. Describing the talks as “still ongoing,” Bonsall said, “For this particular entity that’s expressing interest in this, it is feasible.”
The newspaper identified the entity as South Korea-based Korea Electric Power Corp. A New York City-based KEPCO representative reached by ENR declined to comment on the report. Santee Cooper also did not respond to requests for comment.
In the interview with The State, Bonsall—named CEO in July—acknowledged that other entities would have to be involved with any restart of V.C. Summer’s expansion due to a required 51% minimum for U.S.-based ownership of the project. Moreover, he said, Santee Cooper has no plans to invest in a restart.
Santee Cooper is planning on an estimated “$400 million plus” from the sale of equipment from the V.C. Summer construction site that it intends to use to pay down debt, Bonsall said in a Sept 3 letter to Sen. Hugh Leatherman (R-S.C.), chairman of the finance committee.
The utility has been fighting a claim by Brookfield Business Partners, the investment firm that now owns Westinghouse Electric Co., the nuclear project’s former designer and contractor, which had claimed ownership of the equipment during ongoing bankruptcy proceedings.
In May, Santee Cooper filed a federal complaint over this claim. In a press release, the utility noted that “former majority owner SCE&G ceded its ownership in the nuclear project equipment through a forbearance agreement to Santee Cooper on Dec. 13, 2018, which was approved by the S.C. Public Service Commission.”
Last month, the utility further attempted to end the legal dispute by canceling its contract with Westinghouse.
Additionally, state politicians voiced concerns that a memorandum of understanding, signed on Aug. 29 between Santee Cooper and Southern Power Co. and Southern Company Services, could subvert the plan to sell the utility.
On Sept. 2, Leatherman warned Bonsall of potential “removal” should any “agreement, understanding or contract” undermine the plan to sell Santee Cooper.
A day later, on Sept. 3, Bonsall replied to Leatherman, noting that the MOU only covers the study of potential “mutual efficiencies,” such as fuel supply management, and that Southern confirmed it would not seek to purchase the utility.
Regarding the MOU, Bonsall wrote, “There is no basis to criticize it.”
Added Bonsall: “We believe that all of our work to date is consistent with, not violative of, this purpose and properly pursues Santee Cooper’s statutory mandate to reform itself.”