Vogtle Continuation Decision Tells Me America Still Produces Leaders That Can Make Complicated, Long-Term Decisions
The Georgia Public Service Commission unanimously approved a plan to continue the Vogtle Expansion Project. Georgia Power, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Southern Company, immediately accepted the deal contained in the plan and will continue moving forward with due diligence and effort.
The announced decisions made me even more confident that there is strong leadership remaining in America, despite our highly publicized political chasms.
As an outside observer, I had little remaining optimism going into yesterday’s Georgia Public Service Commission meeting to decide the fate of the Plant Vogtle Expansion Project.
Fortunately, it turns out that I had given up too early. After a few intervenors made oral comments that reiterated their known positions, the commissioners adjourned the public comment portion of the meeting and immediately turned to their executive decision meeting.
Commissioner Tim Echols, who has been quite public about his desire to seek an equitable risk sharing agreement that protected public interests while still enabling the important project to be completed, introduced a detailed, 16-point motion.
He’d brought a stack of paper copies of his motion to the meeting and took the unusual step of requesting a second for his motion before reading it out loud. I’m no parliamentarian, but I recognized that path as a way to allow some interruption and discussion of individual points of the motion during the initial read.
Echols had obviously done a massive amount of homework, legwork and battlefield preparation work in the creation of his motion. It contained a number of provisions that delicately balanced competing interests and extracted the best achievable outcome for as many people as possible.
It recognized that some stakeholders were going to be disappointed, both those who were seeking full cost recovery guarantees and those who would only be satisfied with a complete project abandonment decision. Others would get a little and give a little while the people most deeply involved would get a lot, but also be tasked with giving a lot.
After a short discussion and a few modifications, the amended motion passed unanimously. Even though one of the modifications shifted a significant cost from customers to shareholders, the Georgia Power Company attorney attending the hearing accepted the conditions under which the project continuation had been approved.
Will Davis produced an excellent review of the specifics of the deal at ANS Nuclear Cafe, so I won’t repeat them here.
Suffice it to say that the deal extracts a bit of skin from all participants and includes a number of provisions designed to incentivize exceptional, successful effort while also providing substantial penalties for sub-par performance.
The learning process that began before the project was started will continue and additional lessons will be discovered and documented along the way. Instead of yet another process of learning how to fail at the complex task of building a large, reliable, durable nuclear fission power plant, the Vogtle Expansion Project retains the potential to become a success.
There is a lot of hard work remaining to be accomplished and the path will be bumpy, but the effort and the investment should be worthwhile.
Failure remains a possibility – no matter what scriptwriters may say, it’s an ever present “option” – but yesterday’s decision retained success as a possible outcome.
As my life mentors have often pointed out, failure happens only when you stop trying. The people who remain involved at every level of the Vogtle Expansion Project deserve to be considered to be potential winners until they give up and stop trying to complete their challenging task.
PS – That last paragraph was inspired by a Twitter interaction with a Tea Party activist who was disappointed that the GA PSC did not make Georgia Power stockholders more responsible for the cost of completing the projects. She wrote that “conservatives don’t believe in rewarding failure.”