Ga. Power knew for years about Westinghouse flaws, didn’t tell PSC

[private]Georgia Power has been aware for years of a 2011 report warning its primary contractor, Westingthouse Electric, was running into problems on nuclear projects, but did not acknowledge that information to the state Public Service Commission until this week.

The Georgia PSC is currently holding four days of hearings on whether the construction of two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle should continue.

Westinghouse was the contractor on two identical reactors in South Carolina that were canceled July 31 after the project ran up cost overruns and schedule delays similar to the Vogtle project.

As reported by the Charleston Post & Courier:

The internal Westinghouse document outlined how the company didn’t have the staff, structure or experience needed to manage the engineering and construction work required to build its new AP1000 reactors, which were scheduled to be used in South Carolina and Georgia.

It suggested the projects in Georgia and South Carolina were “at risk” and warned Westinghouse officials that the decision to disregard state engineering laws could lead to lawsuits. And it predicted the company would lose hundreds of millions of dollars in its quest to develop and build a new generation of nuclear power plants.

That critical analysis was reportedly shared with Westinghouse’s former chairman in 2011. But until Monday, there was no evidence that the document was seen in past years by anyone outside of Westinghouse’s staff and leadership.

That changed with the Monday testimony of officials with Georgia Power, one of the primary owners of two partially-built reactors at Plant Vogtle.

Attorneys for Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Southern Co., obtained the document through litigation with Westinghouse in 2014, according to the testimony. That’s roughly three years before Westinghouse filed for bankruptcy and the future of the projects in Georgia and South Carolina were thrown into doubt.

Georgia regulators wanted to know Monday why the utility didn’t disclose that document to the state’s five-member Public Service Commission when they received it.

David McKinney, vice president of nuclear development for Southern Co., said Georgia Power didn’t share that information with state officials because it obtained the document through a lawsuit and couldn’t share it without Westinghouse’s permission.

“This was one of thousands of documents that were exchanged,” McKinney said. . .

Georgia’s utility regulators questioned whether Georgia Power can meet the latest schedule, which calls for the reactors to be finished by 2022.

“We’re supposed to believe after the budget busting and schedule changes in past years that this is going to be a schedule we can work with?” said Stan Wise, the chairman of the Georgia utility commission.

Despite the refusal to turn over the Westinghouse report to state officials, Georgia Power executives are arguing this week that the Vogtle project should continue. The partner companies – Oglethorpe Electric, MEAG Electric, and Dalton Utilities – said they agree.

“The owners are unified in our recommendation to move forward with construction and believe we have identified the risks upfront and provided the information necessary to support the recommendation,” Georgia Power President Paul Bowers said.

“Based on all factors considered, completing both units represents the best economic choice for customers and preserves the benefits of carbon-free, baseload generation for our state.” Bowers said.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Ga. Power , PSC , Vogtle nuclear project , Westinghouse