Showing posts with label nuclear construction. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nuclear construction. Show all posts

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Is this the future for construction workers at Plant Vogtle? Lessons from South Carolina

Plant Vogtle units 3 & 4 under construction

When the decision was made to stop work on the two nuclear power plants in South Carolina, construction workers didn’t receive much notice of layoff, according to the following report first published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This may be the future for Plant Vogtle workers building Units 3 & 4 if Southern Company decides to end work on the costly and long-delayed project.

Westinghouse: Project canceled 'without warning' By Anya Litvak / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

A week after efforts to build two Westinghouse power plants came to a screeching halt in South Carolina, the Cranberry-based nuclear firm chronicled the shock of the moment and began dealing with the aftershocks.

About 6,000 people worked at the V.C. Summer site where two utilities, SCG&E and Santee Cooper, had commissioned Westinghouse Electric Co. to build two AP1000 power plants nine years ago.

Westinghouse had hundreds of its own employees at the site last week when the South Carolina utilities decided to stop the construction project that already was years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The decision stemmed in large part from Westinghouse’s March 29 bankruptcy, the utilities said. 

But their move came “without warning,” Westinghouse said in a document filed with the bankruptcy court Monday.

The project owners did not give Westinghouse any notice before dismissing its subcontractors and vendors on the job, telling them to “halt all shipments and suspend or demobilize all work in progress,” the nuclear company said.

The utilities also restricted Westinghouse’s access to the project, the company said, “escorting its employees off the site using armed personnel, and subsequently only allowing entry to a handful of Westinghouse’s representatives and subcontractors, preventing Westinghouse from generally accessing the site” and carrying out its responsibilities.

The same was true for other workers like Kenneth Blind, a nuclear construction technician with Fluor Corp., the Texas-based firm that Westinghouse brought in in late 2015 to get the troubled construction work back on track.

Mr. Blind echoed Westinghouse’s account of what it was like on the day the project was canceled.

He found it strange that the Friday before the dismissals craft workers suddenly were told to hand in their work packages — binders with work instructions necessary to do their jobs, he said.

But the day before, Scana Corp., which owns part of the VC Summer project, had announced that Westinghouse’s parent company Toshiba Corp. had agreed to a $2.2 billion guarantee for the power plants. Mr. Blind took that as a good sign.

So did Westinghouse, which wrote in its bankruptcy filing on Monday that negotiating Toshiba’s commitment sent the message of wanting the projects to continue.

On the morning of July 31, things at V.C. Summer continued as usual. Mr. Blind’s team was starting to pour concrete for one of the buildings near the reactor. Around 11 a.m., a security guard approached him and asked if he would be sent home, too.

Too? Mr. Blind asked.

He went to find his boss, who then called his boss — a scene that was playing out across the huge site where thousands of workers were grasping at rumors. Word of armed guards had started to spread.

At an “all-hands meeting” at 2 p.m., they were told it was their last day on the job and thanked for their contribution to the project, Mr. Blind said.

People were angry, he recalled, and some were crying.

They began hustling to collect their stuff. “If you couldn't fit it through the turnstiles, you just had to leave it,” he said.

Now begins the work of “demobilizing” and “stabilizing” the site, Westinghouse said, vowing in a court document to seek payment from the South Carolina utilities for its part of the winding down process.

On Monday, Westinghouse also asked the court to allow it to break thousands of contracts associated with the V.C. Summer project. The contracts cover everything from engineering services and security protection to scaffolding and urine testing.

Had the project owners negotiated with Westinghouse to take over control of the power plant construction, as Southern Co. did with the Vogtle project in Georgia, these contracts would have likely changed hands from Westinghouse to the South Carolina utilities.

Now, they will join the long march of unsecured creditors in Westinghouse’s mammoth bankruptcy.

Anya Litvak: or 412-263-1455.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Plant Vogtle workers feeling pressure from South Carolina shutdown

VC Summer Nuclear Station, South Carolina

With South Carolina’s decision to end construction of its nuclear power plants, the pressure intensifies on the workers building Plant Vogtle’s two new nuclear plants.

The decision by Santee Cooper and SCE&G to call it quits on the VC Summer units leaves thousands of skilled workers unemployed.

Nearly 5,000 people lost their contracting jobs at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Plant on Monday afternoon as SCE&G and Santee Cooper announced that they are abandoning the construction of two nuclear reactors at the plant. Many employees got word of the massive layoffs just before lunch, according to WLTX in Columbia, S.C.

With no other nuclear facilities being constructed in the U.S. except for Plant Vogtle, this leaves thousands of skilled construction workers with no choice but to search out work elsewhere including in Georgia.

In a best-case scenario for workers at Plant Vogtle, you have a skilled construction workforce from South Carolina available to shift over to Plant Vogtle creating competition for jobs at the Georgia site. And that is the best-case scenario.

The worse-case scenario for the nearly 6,000 construction workers at Plant Vogtle is that the Southern Company decides to abandon its nuclear construction project as well.

Like VC Summer, Plant Vogtle is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule. So far, only approximately one-third of the construction project has been completed.

Nuclear Watch South and Concerned Ratepayers of Georgia have told the Georgia Public Service Commission that in their opinion, energy usage in the state is not growing and the nuclear plants are not needed.

For South Carolina, the decision comes after SCE&G and Santee Cooper have spent about $9 billion on a project that analysts said could have ultimately cost more than $23 billion, more than twice the original price tag. Under a state law passed 10 years ago, SCE&G was allowed to charge customers for the work before the reactors were finished. About 18 percent of an SCE&G customer’s bill goes for the nuclear project, according to The State newspaper.

Whether Southern Company decides to continue construction or not, workers building the two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle find themselves tonight with a very unsettled future.