2017 was undoubtedly a challenging year for nuclear power in the US. But last week, two of the major players in 2017's nuclear power drama may have found a path forward, subject to regulator approval.
Westinghouse, the nuclear reactor company owned by Toshiba that went bankrupt in early 2017, may have found a buyer in a Canadian company called Brookfield Business Partners. Similarly Scana, the energy company that owned 55 percent of the VC Summer nuclear buildout in South Carolina, may also be bought up by Virginia-based Dominion Energy.
The drama started early last year, when Westinghouse announced its bankruptcy in March. Westinghouse had been contracted to build four Generation III+ AP1000 reactors for two nuclear plants—Summer in South Carolina and Vogtle in Georgia. The new AP1000 reactors were supposed to be safer and more reliable than previous reactors, but constant conflict with contractors left Westinghouse mired in lawsuits and severely behind schedule and over budget.
When Westinghouse declared bankruptcy, both nuclear expansions at Summer and Vogtle were looking at an ultimate bill around $25 billion to have their two new reactors completed.
Vogtle was slightly more finished than Summer, and in December the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) decided that it would move forward with the project despite the extra cost and delays, provided that the US federal government approves certain nuclear tax credits early this year.
In August, the owners of the Summer plant—jointly Scana and Santee Cooper—decided that they couldn't proceed with the project, but left open the possibility that another company could come in and buy the project. Barring that, the South Carolina companies agreed to abandon the $10 billion unfinished project, and pay utility customers back in installments on their energy bills for the undelivered power.
Now, Dominion Energy has offered to purchase Scana in a $7.43 billion all-stock purchase. (Investors in Scana will receive two-thirds of a share of Dominion stock for each share of Scana stock.) Scana had already recovered about $1 billion in construction costs from rate payers in the South Carolina area, but Dominion offered to refund customers $1.3 billion, or $1,000 per customer over 90 days, according to the Wall Street Journal. In exchange, Dominion will acquire more than a million new customers.
As for Westinghouse, Brookfield is hoping to purchase the company for $4.6 billion and make it Brookfield's first investment in nuclear power. According the Reuters, the company has a history of making investments in "stable, long-lived assets such as utilities, real estate, energy, and infrastructure." Despite Westinghouse's misses on Summer and Vogtle, it supplies fuel to and services 80 percent of the 450 nuclear power reactors around the world.