Nuclear Power Station (copy) (copy)

Leftover equipment at the failed V.C. Summer nuclear plant expansion in Jenkinsville (above) includes construction materials. Santee Cooper and Westinghouse Electric are claiming ownership of it. File/Grace Beahm/Staff

Santee Cooper is going to court to establish ownership of equipment from the failed V.C. Summer nuclear project that Westinghouse Electric Co. claims it owns.

The state-owned utility filed a lawsuit against its former contractor in Charleston this week seeking a "formal declaration" from U.S. District Court.

“Westinghouse has no legal claim to this equipment,” J. Michael Baxley Sr., general counsel for Santee Cooper, said in a written statement.

Westinghouse was the reactor designer and lead engineering firm for the V.C. Summer expansion, which was scuttled in July 2017 after years of delays and construction cost overruns. The company filed for bankruptcy protection that same year.

Baxley said Santee Cooper and SCE&G, which were partners on the failed nuclear venture, "more than paid for the cost of the equipment while the project was active.”

In addition, Westinghouse didn't claim the equipment when it retrieved other items it left behind at the Fairfield County site, Santee Cooper said.

The equipment includes reactor components and construction materials. Santee Cooper estimated it has invested nearly more than $5 million so far to preserve it for an eventual sale.

The utility also is seeking to dismiss an ownership claim that Westinghouse has included in its New York bankruptcy case after being acquired by private equity firm Brookfield Asset Management last year. Baxley said the items were not listed among the assets that were disclosed to the court and creditors in 2017.

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"It appears Brookfield may be attempting to assert an ownership interest in the equipment," according to the lawsuit.

SCE&G ceded its claim to the goods in December. The deal was approved by the S.C. Public Service Commission, which Santee Cooper said is "further evidence" that it is the sole owner.

Westinghouse filed a lawsuit last month to force a sale of the surplus V.C. Summer equipment for $8 million to Southern Co. for use at its Plant Vogtle nuclear station in Georgia.

"Westinghouse is uniquely positioned to sell these assets and has taken the necessary step of filing suit so as to not lose this opportunity and to maximize the value of the assets," the company said in a written statement. "Westinghouse is willing to have the proceeds of the sale held in escrow pending resolution of the suit, in which ownership of these assets will be determined."

It declined to comment further.

Contact John McDermott at 843-937-5572 or follow him on Twitter at @byjohnmcdermott