South Carolina's leading power utility decided Monday to cease construction at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station's two reactors after spending nearly $5 billion on the project.

Santee Cooper's board of directors approved the plan to stop construction of reactor units 2 and 3.

The facility represented another blow for the nuclear power industry, which has suffered a number of setbacks in the last year including a number of announced plant closures and the bankruptcy of nuclear power developer Westinghouse.

The nuclear power industry's lead industry group, the Nuclear Energy Institute, called the news "disappointing."

"As a first-of-a-kind nuclear construction project of this size and scope, the project understandably encountered many economic, regulatory and other challenges along the way," said Maria Korsnick, the group's president and CEO. "It is unfortunate that circumstances beyond their control have led to this outcome today. All the more now, we must impress upon our energy policy decision makers the vital role of nuclear energy in America's energy portfolio.

"As America's need for electricity continues to grow, which means hundreds of new generating facilities will need to be built, clean and reliable nuclear energy will be an essential part of America's energy security," she said.

"There's no sugarcoating that the decision to abandon construction of VC Summer is a body blow to our nuclear industry — but it only means the U.S. must redouble our commitment," said Rich Powell, executive director of ClearPath, a conservative group that advocates for clean energy resources such as nuclear power and natural gas.

Sen. Tom Carper, the top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was quick to respond to the announcement. "I'm disappointed by today's decision to halt construction on South Carolina's two nuclear reactors," he said. "Nuclear energy provides about 20 percent of our nation's energy, but the reactors in operation today won't be around forever."

The Delaware Democrat said many members of Congress see the "incredible opportunity that nuclear energy presents," noting the role of nuclear power plants "in our country's clean energy future, and it's on all of us to help make that future viable."