« FOE: South Carolina Bungled Nuclear Reactor Construction Project Canceled | Main | Decision to abandon South Carolina nuclear construction project could come in next 30 days »

Georgia and South Carolina ratepayers could lose many billions of dollars in return for zero electricity, if Westinghouse bankruptcy leads to cancellation of four partially constructed atomic reactors

Construction Work in Progress (CWIP), also known as advance cost recovery, is illegal in most states.

It was outlawed by popular referendum in Missouri in 1976, for example. In Indiana, CWIP's illegality led to the cancellation of partially constructed atomic reactors, when would-be nuclear utilities were busted in court by Citizen Action Coalition for trying to do it anyway, despite its illegality.

But the state governments of Georgia and South Carolina decided to make CWIP legal, in order to force ratepayers to fund construction of four Toshiba-Westinghouse AP1000 reactors: Vogtle Units 3 & 4 in Georgia, and Summer Units 2 & 3 in South Carolina. CWIP was made legal in South Carolina by the Base Load Review Act.

But Westinghouse Nuclear declared bankruptcy on March 29th, due to the massive cost overruns (in the billions of dollars), due to years-long construction delays, at the four reactors. There is a distinct possibility that all four reactors could be cancelled.

Already, after nine rate hikes in just the past several years, nearly 20% of South Carolina ratepayers' payments on their electric bills go toward the construction of Summer 2 & 3. If Summer 2 and/or 3 are cancelled, ratepayers will have invested billions of dollars, without receiving so much as one kilowatt-hour of electricity.

But at least if the two reactors are cancelled, the people of South Carolina won't face decades of "routine" radioactivity releases, as well as the risk of catastrophic releases of hazardous radioactivity, due to reactor core meltdowns, or high-level radioactive waste storage pool fires.

Vogtle 3 & 4 are also being financed through CWIP, through a surcharge on ratepayer bills, a veritable nuclear tax. In addition, Vogtle 3 & 4 were awarded $8.3 billion of federal taxpayer-backed nuclear loan guarantees, with zero credit subsidy fee. This means, if the Vogtle 3 & 4 construction project defaults on its loan repayment, that entire amount -- 15 times more taxpayer money than was lost in the Solyndra solar loan guarantee default -- could be lost to the U.S. Treasury.

For more information on the Westinghouse Nuclear bankruptcy declaration, and its implication for the ratepayers of Georgia and South Carolina (as well as for U.S. taxpayers, given the Vogtle 3 & 4 nuclear loan guarantees), please see Beyond Nuclear's Loan Guarantees website section.