5+ Reasons Why Plant Vogtle Should Succeed

If you track the news about new nuclear construction in the U.S. then you know these facts (from Wikipedia):

“On August 15, 2006, Southern Nuclear formally applied for an Early Site Permit (ESP) for two additional units, units 3&4. The ESP will determine whether the site is appropriate for additional reactors, and this process is separate from the Combined Construction and Operating License (COL) Application process. On March 31, 2008, Southern Nuclear announced that it had submitted an application for a COL, a process which will take at least 3 to 4 years. On April 9, 2008, Georgia Power Company reached a contract agreement for two AP1000 reactors designed by Westinghouse (owned by Toshiba) and the Shaw Group (Baton Rouge, LA). The contract represents the first agreement for new nuclear development since the Three Mile Island accident in 1979, and received approval from the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) on March 17, 2009.  On August 26, 2009 the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued an Early Site Permit and a Limited Work Authorization. Construction of the new reactors has begin, with Unit 3 projected to be operational in 2016, followed by Unit 4 in 2017, pending final approvals by the NRC.”

There is some hope that the COL will be awarded in December, 2012.

(Since 2009, I have had a privileged position to work with 80+ senior leaders at Shaw and Southern, at the Plant Vogtle project.   Their concerns remain in confidence.  These leaders are an inspiration.  Here are some of their thoughts.)

The Plant Vogtle leaders share a vision to get the job built safely, with high quality, and on time.  Amid contradictory and sometimes negative press, these leaders share the following…

1.  Career Enhancement.   All of these leaders chose to be at this site because they wanted to be part of new nuclear construction.   That may be described as a “Nuclear Renaissance.”  The industry has evolved tremendously since 1979.  There is tremendous market demand ahead, especially in the southeastern U.S.  The engineers on site are some of the best in the world,  and the best in the industry.  There is a strong sense that Plant Vogtle is a capstone project (for those nearing retirement) and a defining career move (for those building their careers.)

2.  Historic Work.  Plant Vogtle and the VC Summer plant near Columbia, SC, are on track to be the first new nuclear plants built in the U.S. in 32 years.  Several of these leaders want to “be part of that history” and “tell their children” about the historical importance of this project.   Shaw is the construction provider with a fixed bid job, and significant risk.  Southern is the licensee/owner with significant risk.  Westinghouse is the designer, with significant risk.  Thankfully, each of these companies has smart people who “know the high stakes,” and are expert at managing large scale heavy construction.

3.  Patriotism.  There are significant strides in new nuclear construction throughout the world.  In fact, at some plants, images of national flags are projected onto cooling towers.  In the U.S., many of these leaders have stood up, placed their hand over their hearts and declared, “I am proud to be at this project.  It is being built by American companies, on American soil, for American utility consumers.”   Countless hard hats have American flag stickers.

4.  Money.  On February 16, 2010, President Obama announced $8.3 billion in federal backed dollars to support the new nuclear industry, and to reduce American dependance on foreign oil.   The average salaries for these  jobs are above for the region, many are Union jobs, and many are 2-8 years in length rather than smaller projects with 1-2 year terms.  According to the Savannah River Site Community Reuse Organization, the region will require 10,000 new jobs over 10 years.  The economic impact for individuals, companies, and the region, cannot be understated during this recession.

5.  Challenges.  These leaders like challenges.  They embrace challenges.  They expect the Vogtle Project to be a success, and they expect to work through the challenges ahead.

Some of these leaders compare Plant Vogtle to other construction successes.  How is Plant Vogtle like the Hoover Dam?  The NASA Space program? Or like any other great project in history?

I love the quote, “Never doubt that a small team of committed people will define the course of history.  Indeed they have always defined history.”  The author, Margaret Mead, was an anthropologist who looked for patterns.

Like her, I am a coach and consultant with strong faith that this team of committed leaders has at least 5 reasons to define history, to succeed at Plant Vogtle.

What do you think?