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South Carolina Electric & Gas Company (SCE&G), one of the principal subsidiaries of the U.S. power company SCANA Corporation (SCG - Analyst Report), completed the nuclear island basemat for V.C. Summer Unit 2 in South Carolina. This marks the first ever nuclear concrete placement in the U.S. in three decades.

Construction of two 1,117-megawatt (MW) nuclear electric generation units at the site of V.C. Summer Nuclear Station (Summer Station) is expected to generate 600 to 800 permanent jobs. The first unit is expected to be commissioned in 2017 and the second in 2018. Partners involved in this new nuclear energy project are SCE&G, a South Carolina, state-owned power company Santee Cooper, CB&I, Westinghouse Electric Co. and others.
The concrete basemat provides groundwork for the containment and auxiliary buildings inside the nuclear island. The six feet (1.8 meters) thick basemat required about 7,000 cubic yards of concrete to cover an area about 250 feet long and 160 feet at its widest section. The company has been able to complete a surface totaling 32,000 square feet with 51.5 hours of nonstop concrete pour.

Currently about 1,550 workers are engaged in the construction of the two Summer reactors, where the 966-MW Unit 1 has operated for 30 years. The employment will eventually rise to about 3,000 workers within three to four years. SCANA and its partner Santee Cooper expect to expend more than $9 billion to fabricate these two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors at V.C. Summer.

The new units are a strategic fit in the rapidly growing state of South Carolina. The nuclear units are expected to drive earnings growth at SCE&G. SCANA’s capex is bound to escalate with the construction of the two nuclear projects but once the costs are recognized in the rate base, the earnings power of the company is surely to improve.

SCANA retains a Zacks Rank #2 (short-term Buy rating). There are other utility companies that may well be considered. These are Brookfield Infrastructure Partners L.P. (BIP - Snapshot Report), Huaneng Power International, Inc. (HNP - Snapshot Report) and Otter Tail Corporation (OTTR - Snapshot Report), all with a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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