Westinghouse’s troubles loom over 2 projects
Westinghouse Electric Co ., the U.S. nuclear unit of Japan’s Toshiba Corp., filed for bankruptcy protection Wednesday, calling into question the future of a number of billion-dollar nuclear projects under construction, including two in the U.S.
Westinghouse said it filed the Chapter 11 petition in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. The move had been largely expected.
The troubles at a company long associated with nuclear power add to the industry’s problems. Nuclear power is cleaner than generating electricity with coal or natural gas, but building a nuclear reactor is much more complex and prohibitively costly. After the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, public sentiment turned against nuclear power in countries such as Japan and Germany.
In the U.S ., nuclear power generates about one- fifth of the nation’s electricity. But some older nuclear plants are being shuttered and the four nuclear re actors Westinghouse is helping to build in South Carolina and Georgia are behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
Westinghouse said Wednesday that it obtained financing to maintain its operations and made arrangements to continue work on the projects in South Carolina and Georgia while it assesses their viability. Westinghouse also said it will continue projects in China, and that its operations in its Asia and Europe, the Middle East and Africa aren’t affected.
Toshiba acquired Westinghouse in 2006 with much fanfare, making nuclear power an important part of its business strategy. Instead, Westinghouse has saddled the Japanese company with mounting losses. Toshiba said Westinghouse had racked up debt of $ 9.8 billion. Toshiba said it could post a loss as big as $ 9 billion for the fiscal year ending March 31.
In South Carolina, Westinghouse is a partner with state- owned utility Santee Cooper and publicly- traded SCANA Corp. on the construction of two reactors at the V. C. Summer Nuclear Station near Jenkinsville. SCANA said in September that the cost of building the reactors had increased nearly $ 3 billion from the original $ 11 billion estimate in 2009. The first reactor was supposed to open in 2017, but has been delayed at least two years.
The Plant Vogtle project in eastern Georgia was more than three years behind schedule and more than $ 3 billion over its original budget as of the end of 2016. Oglethorpe Power, one of the partners in the project, said in a regulatory filing thisweek that “the revised in- service dates of December 2019 and September 2020” for the two reactors it’s building “do not appear to be achievable.”