Southern Co. defends role in Vogtle setbacks

By Kristi E. Swartz, E&E News reporter

One comment on “Southern Co. defends role in Vogtle setbacks

  1. Bottom line is: The OWNERS have final responsibility for this project and should be fully accountable for their actions!
    They have delegated responsibility to the “Contractor(s)”, but they have to manage the contract for the contractors to perform. The OWNERS committed a “DEADLY SIN” by handing over “total project control” to the Contractor(s). Thus, they have elected to “passively manage” instead of to “actively manage” the project. We have 5 years+ history of project delays to show us how well that worked out. Never, never, never, give the contractor control of a project, if one seeks cost and schedule adherence.
    I do not personally believe that WESTINGHOUSE is totally to blame. The OWNERS believed that a FIXED-PRICE” contract would allow the OWNERS to sit back upon their assets and do little to administer the contract. The owners could get no one to bid as contractor and therefore felt justified in self-management. However, none of the OWNERS are “Project Managers”; perhaps they do a good job in their CORE business, but a lousy job of project management. WESTINGHOUSE also is NOT in the business of being a CONTRACTOR; their CORE business is “manufacturing & servicing” nuclear components – with national and international business. It’s reasonable to think that SHAW & STONE & WEBSTER were supposed to be the nuclear “field” contractors, but neither had the “NUCLEAR EXPERIENCE”, as we saw QUALITY problems both at the Lake Charles facility (A Shaw entity) and again at the project site (Stone & Webster).
    An often overlooked fact is that SHAW owned about 20% of Westinghouse stock and therefore was able to worm itself into the contract, along with Stone & Webster. It seems that no one had vetted these two contractors as to their lack of nuclear experience.
    Next, we get into “Change Orders” of which the OWNERS failed to resolve in timely fashion. It wasn’t until Amendment 7 (six years from Original EPC contract) that they (OWNERS) acknowledged therein that design changes – reviews & approvals -from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission are legitimate changes. Thus, FIXED PRICE also includes “unknown, or unforeseen, changes” in the work, which is significant in a project which as yet does not have a “Final Design”.
    Twice a year the OWNERS come before the Georgia Public Service Commission with the status of their project. Invariably, WESTINGHOUSE and other contractors are blamed for every problem therein. But really, this is HEARSAY EVIDENCE in that these entities are not present to tell their own side of the story!
    This project has spent $$ billions in OWNER education and experience, over several years! Who besides the OWNERS benefit from that? Why should the current customer pay for this incompetence – imprudence, so to speak?
    Every day of “critical-path” delay costs – on the back end – over $ 2 million per day; GPC acknowledges (17th VCM) about $70 million per month. So, do the math; 5 years of delay x 12 months per year x $70 million per month is approximately $4.2 billion in total delay costs – so far, more or less.
    It’s time to get angry! Angry at the nuclear industry for promoting CWIP & NCCR tariffs! Angry at the Southern Utility family of companies who have botched this project – practically from Day 1 – and who still have not looked in the mirror; Angry at our legislators who voted us in – for the State’s Prestige & Privilege! Angry at our commissioners who seem to take every word from the owners as “gospel”, and give current customers only nickels & dimes in consideration for their financing of the project. Is this oversight? I really am tired of excuses – both from the OWNERS and from the Georgia PSC! Perhaps the WESTINGHOUSE bankruptcy filing is a blessing …….??

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