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Westinghouse faces Thursday deadline to keep V.C. Summer contract secret

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Westinghouse Electric has until Thursday to act on a request by the Office of Regulatory Staff that the S.C. Public Service Commission revoke confidential treatment of a contract South Carolina Electric & Gas signed for the construction of two reactor units at V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.

ORS requested regulators require SCE&G to disclose terms of the engineering, procurement, and construction contract and all pricing information related to the project, which is billions over budget, years behind schedule and hobbled by Westinghouse's recent filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. SCE&G earlier said it did not object to the agency's request to make the contract public.

“At least as early as May 1, Westinghouse was made aware of the petition and SCE&G’s non-opposition to it,” David Butler, a PSC hearing officer, wrote in a May 15 directive to the commission. “As of today’s date, Westinghouse has still not made its position, if any, known to the PSC.”

Since the commission has yet to hear from Westinghouse, Butler recommended that the contractor has until Thursday to respond. If it doesn’t make the deadline, then the commission will consider the ORS petition at its May 24 business meeting, the directive said.

If Westinghouse does respond by Thursday, then a hearing would be held June 19, according to the directive.

The estimated cost of the project is $13.9 billion, about $3 billion over the original budget approved by regulators in 2009.

Construction of the two units is about one-third complete, and most of the pieces, parts and equipment are either at the construction site, on the way, or already purchased. About 5,000 people are working at the Jenkinsville construction site.

Westinghouse has provided SCE&G revised in-service dates of April 2020 and December 2020 for Units 2 and 3. That compares with in-service dates of 2016 for the first unit and 2019 for the second unit that were included in a May 2008 news release announcing the project.

Since the commission approved SCE&G’s request in 2009 to build the reactors, the company’s electricity customers have been hit with nine rate increases. According to the ORS, residential customers using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month have seen their bills climb to $147.53 per month. About 18.2% of the bill is the result of the nine rate hikes, according to the state agency.

SCE&G’s parent, SCANA, and its partner, state-operated Santee Cooper, have not announced their next move on the project. Options range from proceeding with construction of both units or totally abandoning the project. SCANA said Westinghouse, which wants to exit as contractor, has agreed to extend the evaluation period through June 26.

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