SCANA updates nuclear construction; Unit 1 refueling delay

SCANA (NYSE: SCG) said Nov. 6 that construction is going well on its two new nuclear units in South Carolina although the regularly-scheduled refueling and maintenance outage at V.C. Summer Unit 1 will last longer than expected.

V.C. Summer Unit 1 will be offline until the first or second week of December. That’s two or three weeks longer than expected due to some problems discovered in welds at the existing nuclear plant.

The refueling outage started Oct. 12 and was originally expected to last only 40 days. SCANA CFO Jimmy Addison and South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) COO Steve Byrne suggested the weld problem was not a big issue and should take only a few weeks to fix.

“During our current refueling and maintenance outage, we performed a planned inspection of the reactor vessel head, which contains 66 penetrations,” a SCANA spokesperson said following the call.

“The majority of these penetrations allow control rods in the reactor to be maneuvered as needed. These welds, called J-welds, secure the penetration sleeve to the reactor vessel head. Welds for four of these 66 penetrations will need to be repaired. These repairs are preemptive to assure we have no issues in the future. Our focus is on completing the necessary repairs safely during the ongoing scheduled maintenance and refueling outage before returning the reactor to service,” said the company spokesperson.

The unit had just completed a 500-day “breaker to breaker run” without interruption, company officials said during the third quarter earnings call.

New units still targeted for 2017, 2018

Meanwhile, SCANA officials said things are progressing well at the two new Summer units being built adjacent to the existing reactor near Jenkinsville, S.C. SCANA remains on track to deploy its two new nuclear units at the V.C. Summer station in 2017 and 2018.

The target remains March 2017 for Unit 2 and May 2018 for Unit 3. Steam generators for Unit 2 are scheduled to be delivered to the site in 2013, Byrne said.

That’s a bit later than initially expected in part because of delays in receiving the final combined construction and operating license (COL) from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).

Speaking of the delays, SCE&G has reached a settlement with Shaw Group and Westinghouse regarding certain delays. The settlement was reached without litigation, officials said.

The company will be filing a status report on V.C. Summer construction with the South Carolina Public Service Commission in mid-November.        

The incremental nuclear construction work in progress (CWIP) as of June 30 is $993m. Earlier this fall, SCANA completed expansion of a credit facility.

SCANA’s basic earnings were 93 cents for the third quarter of 2012 compared to 81 cents for the third quarter of 2011.

The utility is seeking to increase its retail electric rate, seeking a return on equity of 10.95%. Among other things, company officials noted that the utility is seeking approval for certain scrubber costs at the coal-fired Wateree power plant.

SCE&G did well during the quarter in part due to increased demand in its customer base. The company has invested $450m in its South Carolina territory in 2012 and $550m in North Carolina.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.