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Santee Cooper officially cancels contract to end dispute over nuclear parts

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VC Summer Jan 31 2018 IMG_3555.jpg

An aerial shows the the V.C. Summer nuclear project. File/High Flyer/Provided

Santee Cooper pulled out all the stops last week in an effort to end a dispute over the ownership of valuable equipment sitting idle at the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project. 

The state-run utility has been attempting to maintain billions of dollars of pumps, motors, generators, electrical cable, steel beams and one-of-a-kind components that were left over when the project in Fairfield County was canceled two years ago. 

When the materials were first purchased, they cost billions of dollars. The hope is that Santee Cooper will be able to resell some of the parts to offset the debt it incurred from the two unfinished reactors. 

But it has had to fight off a competing legal grab by Brookfield Business Partners. The private investment firm now owns Westinghouse Electric Co., the former designer and contractor for the V.C. Summer project.

Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy protection prior to the nuclear project being scrapped in July 2017. But Brookfield's leaders now claim the leftover parts, which Westinghouse abandoned, belong to them. 

Moncks Corner-based Santee Cooper disagrees, and it is pushing back. Its attorneys have filed complaints in federal court pointing out that the utility and its project partner, SCANA Corp., paid for the goods being stored at the Fairfield County site. 

In an effort to end the legal dispute, Santee Cooper officially terminated the contract it initially signed with Westinghouse in 2008. 

Santee Cooper believes ending that construction contract will end any chance Brookfield had at staking a claim on the massive stockpiles of equipment. 

The utility's attorneys said it should remove "any doubt" about who the legal owner is.

It's up to the court to decide whether that's the case. A hearing on the issue has not been scheduled. 

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Reach Andrew Brown at 843-708-1830 or follow him on Twitter @andy_ed_brown.

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