Previously confidential change orders disclosed by South Carolina regulators show about $325 million in revisions to the contract to build two new reactors at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant since 2009.
At the request of South Carolina's Office of Regulatory Staff, the state Public Service Commission ordered May 25 the release of 35 change orders previously kept confidential made over the past eight years to the Summer project's engineering, procurement and construction, or EPC, contract by contractor Westinghouse Electric Co. LLC; its predecessors; and the plant's part-owner, SCANA Corp. subsidiary South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., or SCE&G.
The $14 billion V.C. Summer expansion project is nearly $3 billion over its original budget and years behind schedule as SCE&G and its co-owner, the state-run South Carolina Public Service Authority, better known as Santee Cooper, consider finishing the project themselves by assuming construction responsibilities from a bankrupt Westinghouse. Neither SCE&G nor Westinghouse objected to the releasing of the change orders to the EPC contract. Westinghouse estimates that it will cost an additional $1.5 billion more than anticipated to finish its AP1000 reactors under the EPC contract as last amended in 2015.
"Bidding for services is generally final with regard to the EPC contract and other materials sought to be made public," the commission's order said. However, as "the pricing in the EPC contract is no longer accurate" and the bidding has changed, the regulatory body decided it is now in the public interest to revoke the confidentiality to help determine "remedies available to aid South Carolina ratepayers."
As reported by The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., among the $325 million in additional costs are $250 million toward changes to a reactor shield building, nearly $37 million to change the plant's layout to make it more secure, almost $13 million for nuclear staff training and $4.11 million toward cyber-security improvements, simulators to train staff and computer maintenance training.
"Why did we ask that these contracts be released to the public? We did that because we thought it was the right thing to do," C. Dukes Scott, executive director of the state consumer advocate, the Office of Regulatory Staff, said in an interview. "We should have done that back when it was originally filed."
"The contract should've been opened to the public [from day one] and we didn't do that," Scott said. "SCE&G and Westinghouse asked for it to be confidential and we sat there and didn't do anything."
Even though his office was privy to the confidential information from the start, Scott does not think there is anything revealing to impact the overall ongoing reassessment of V.C. Summer as the state and other parties continue to review and collect data on the expansion project's costs and schedule. Regardless, the issue of confidential change orders raises concerns for Scott going forward with a project of such magnitude. "We need an open and transparent process; and you can't have an open transparent process if you are going to do it under the cover of darkness," he said.
Toshiba Corp. owns a majority stake in Westinghouse, which acquired V.C. Summer's previous contractor in December 2015.