PSC schedules hearing on nuclear plant future after environmental groups' protest

PSC schedules hearing on nuclear plant future after environmental groups' protest

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The South Carolina Public Service Commission responded quickly after environmental groups staged a protest, then demanded a public hearing on the outlook for the V.C. Summer nuclear project under construction in Fairfield County.

SCE&G and Santee Cooper are building two reactors designed to dramatically boost nuclear energy production at the site of an existing reactor in Jenkinsville.

Early Thursday afternoon, members of the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth called on the PSC to hold a public hearing on the project, which is less than 40 percent complete despite billions in spending and years of work.

A short time later, the PSC scheduled a hearing for Aug. 14 at 10:30 a.m. at the Commission's offices in Columbia.

Critics blasted SCE&G's support of the plan, cost overruns, multiple rate increases and uncertain future after severe financial problems hit lead contractor Westinghouse Nuclear and its parent company Toshiba.

In a statement issued late Thursday afternoon, an SCE&G spokeswoman says the company and Santee Cooper "are evaluating what actions are in the best interests of our customers concerning the new nuclear units."

The company says there have been six proceedings before the Commission to review the prudency and construction of the new units.

Spokeswoman Rhonda O'Banion says the Sierra Club or Friends of the Earth have participated in each of those proceedings.

"The company has never objected to their right to be heard in these proceedings and expects them to participate in the docket that SCE&G will initiate after our evaluation is completed," she says. "But until that time, proceedings like the one requested by (the groups) are premature."

SCE&G and Westinghouse have been carrying out an Interim Assessment Agreement, which ends on June 26.

O'Banion says that date is not a deadline for the V.C. Summer owners to make a decision as to the most prudent path forward for the project.

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