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Westinghouse being called to testify about its role in S.C.'s failed nuclear project

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Nuclear Power Station (copy)

The V.C. Summer Nuclear Station is in Jenkinsville. Santee Cooper and SCE&G halted an expansion at the site July 31. File/Grace Beahm/Staff

Westinghouse is being called to testify before the South Carolina House about its role in the failed expansion of the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station.

Pittsburgh-based Westinghouse designed the unfinished reactors that were being constructed in Fairfield County, north of Columbia. By the end of the nine-year project, it had taken over as the lead contractor.

Westinghouse was forced into bankruptcy by its bet on building nuclear reactors, and its financial collapse set in motion the ultimate demise of the V.C. Summer project last summer. In recent months, lawmakers have largely homed in on the reactors’ owners — Santee Cooper and South Carolina Electric & Gas.

The House’s special V.C. Summer committee will take up questioning of Westinghouse on March 21, according to a letter sent Monday by its leaders, Rep. Peter McCoy, R-Charleston, and Rep. Russell Ott, D-St. Matthews.

The committee is asking the company to send executives to Columbia — and copies of its project records. McCoy and Ott raised the possibility of holding the company in contempt if it doesn’t attend.

Westinghouse spokeswoman Sarah Cassella says the company is "in the process of reviewing the request."

Even so, Westinghouse hasn’t entirely avoided scrutiny in the nuclear project which cost $9 billion before it was called off in late July. The company is being investigated for using unlicensed engineers to draw up plans for the reactors. Court records show it has received subpoenas from a federal grand jury investigating the project.

A report obtained by The Post and Courier last fall showed doubts were bubbling up about the V.C. Summer project as early as 2011, before construction had broken ground.

An internal Westinghouse memo raised doubts about whether the company had the expertise to manage the engineering and construction work on such a large project.

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Reach Thad Moore at 843-937-5703. Follow him on Twitter @thadmoore.

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