Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Santee Cooper CEO Lonnie Carter has abruptly retired from his position, the first utility executive to leave in the wake of the failure to complete a multi-billion dollar reactor project.

The decision was announced Friday during a special meeting of Santee Cooper's board. This comes after two nuclear reactors at V.C. Summer suspended construction leaving over 5,600 people out of work.

"Serving has been professionally and personally rewarding," Carter told the board.

“Lonnie has had a positive influence on Santee Cooper, our customers and the state of South Carolina, thanks to the many innovations and accomplishments we achieved with his guidance," said Leighton Lord, Chairman of the Santee Cooper Board of Directors. "On a personal note, I appreciate the sincerity and integrity he has demonstrated throughout our time working together.”

Santee Cooper had a 45 percent stake in the project, with 55 percent being owned by SCE&G. Gov. Henry McMaster and other lawmakers have suggested Santee Cooper's stake in the project could be bought out by another company, which could allow at least part of the project to restart.

The public utility and privately owned SCE&G decided July 31 to bail on the expansion of V.C. Summer Nuclear Station after jointly spending nearly $10 billion.

Santee Cooper is a state-owned electric and water utilities company. Carter has been CEO since 2004.

During Tuesdays testimony to the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant Review Committee, Carter told senators Westinghouse was to blame for the suspension of the two nuclear reactors. Westinghouse was the company contracted to build the reactors, but ultimately went bankrupt earlier this year.

In their presentation, Santee Cooper cited design delays, lack of transparency in leadership, failure to develop fully resourced schedule and budget and poor work site coordination.

Tuesday, State Senator Shane Massey asked Carter if they were counting on Westinghouse to let them know how the construction was coming along. He said yes.

The Associated Press contributed to this report