Santee Cooper seeks new partner for nuclear output

April 13 Fri Apr 13, 2012 5:48pm EDT

April 13 (Reuters) - South Carolina's state-owned electric utility, Santee Cooper, said on Friday it signed a letter of intent with a Mississippi public power agency for electricity from new nuclear reactors under construction in South Carolina.

The South Mississippi Electric Power Association (SME), a wholesale supplier to 11 co-ops with 410,000 customers in Mississippi, may also be interested in a minority interest in Santee Cooper's 45 percent stake in two reactors under construction at the Summer nuclear station in South Carolina.

The letter of intent calls for negotiations regarding SME's purchase of 2 to 7 percent of the capacity and energy output from the new Summer units, or roughly 4 to 14 percent of Santee Cooper's share of the output.

The letter also includes an option for South Mississippi Electric to acquire a portion of Santee Cooper's ownership interest. No financial terms were disclosed.

Last month, U.S. nuclear regulators approved a license for Scana Corp and Santee Cooper to begin full-scale construction of two new 1,100-megawatt reactors at the Summer station. Scana holds a 55 percent stake in the new reactors.

Under a revised timeline, Scana said the units are now expected to begin operating in 2017 and 2018.

Santee Cooper has been working to attract partners as a way to reduce its stake to about 20 percent due to slower electric growth projections in its territory.

Previously announced negotiations with the Florida Municipal Power Agency and the Orlando Utilities Commission to acquire small percentages of Santee Cooper's interest have ended without any agreements, a Santee Cooper spokeswoman said Friday.

However, talks with Duke Energy Corp for a 5-to-10 percent share of the nuclear power from the Summer units are ongoing, she said.

A spokeswoman for Southern Mississippi Electric said the negotiation with Santee Cooper for additional power is unrelated to the group's talks with Southern Co's Mississippi utility to acquire a 17.5 percent stake in the controversial Kemper County Integrated Gas Combined Cycle project in Mississippi.

The 582-MW Kemper plant is scheduled to come online in 2014, but its certificate is being challenged in state court.

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