Report: Bankruptcy an option for Vogtle contractor

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
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 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 bankruptcy filing by Westinghouse could further complicate the already delayed Vogtle project, which is also more than $3 billion over the original budget.

A reorganization in bankruptcy court could allow Westinghouse to renegotiate 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 on the current timetable of late 2020.

A Westinghouse spokeswoman said in an e-mailed statement: “We are not considering bankruptcy at this time.”

Executives at Georgia Power parent 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.

They 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 CEO 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.