Plant Vogtle’s nuke builder could file bankruptcy, says Japan newspaper

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Plant Vogtle’s nuke builder could file bankruptcy, says Japan newspaper

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Plant Vogtle’s builder, Westinghouse, could file bankruptcy because of losses at the nuclear project and another in South Carolina, according to published reports. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

A Japanese publication reported Friday that Toshiba is considering a bankruptcy filing for its Westinghouse unit, the company that is building two nuclear reactors at Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle.

Citing an unnamed Toshiba official, Nikkei Asian Review said the company sees bankruptcy “as one option as it reviews its overall nuclear power business.”

Toshiba recently reported more than $6 billion in losses stemming from Westinghouse’s nuclear construction contracts for the Plant Vogtle expansion, near Augusta, and a similar nuclear plant in South Carolina owned by SCANA.

Toshiba’s chairman resigned last week, and the company said it won’t build any more nuclear plants. It’s also considering selling off its computer chip business and seeking help from the Japanese government.

A spokeswoman for Westinghouse Electric Co., Sarah Cassella, said, “We are not considering bankruptcy at this time.” In 2006, Toshiba paid $5.4 billion for Westinghouse, based near Pittsburgh.

A bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse could further upset things for the already troubled Vogtle project, which is more than $3 billion over budget and more than three years behind schedule.

A reorganization in bankruptcy court could allow Westinghouse to renegotiate its construction contracts with Georgia Power, the largest owner of Plant Vogtle. A lengthy court-supervised reorganization could also complicate and delay Georgia Power’s efforts to complete the two reactors by their current timetable, the end of 2020.

However, executives at Georgia Power’s parent company, Southern Co., largely dismissed such worries earlier this week.

Southern executives told investors Wednesday that they considered a Toshiba bankruptcy unlikely and had financial guarantees and personnel in place to continue Vogtle construction, if necessary.

The Southern executives said the company can claim roughly half of $920 million in financial guarantees Toshiba was required to obtain from banks as its financial condition slipped.

Southern Chief Executive Tom Fanning said Georgia Power also has agreements in place and hundreds of people at the Vogtle site and at suppliers who could take over management of the construction project if needed. “We are primed and ready to go,” he said.

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