Honey, I Broke the Nuclear Power Plant…

One aspect of American culture I’ve never taken to is the DIY (do it yourself) approach to home repair / improvement.  I attribute that to the fact that I did not grow up seeing DIY being practiced by our family or anyone else I knew.

I grew up in Asia, where it was very cheap to hire someone to do a manual labor job.  So DIY had no appeal from a “savings” perspective.  Nor does it have any appeal from a “I did that” perspective.  Probably because manual labor is very low in my value scale.

Even if DIY had “cost” or “I did that” appeal, there’s the issue of competence.  I value efficiency and if I lack competence in something then it’s unlikely I’ll do it efficiently.  Better to hire someone who can do the task competently and efficiently than for me to spend hours hoping I do the job right or, worse, end up having to hire someone whose price may be higher to fix my mistakes than if I’d hired them to begin with.

Nevertheless, there are lots of folks who prefer to try the DIY approach.  Until they realize their optimism exceeded their competence.  Which brings me to the title of this post…

Duke Power has announced that it will shut down the nuclear power plant in Crystal River, Florida, after four years of trying to fix a botched upgrade.  Progress Energy (which owned the plant before it merged with Duke Power) decided in 2009 that it could save $15 million on the project by taking a DIY approach without supervision by an experienced firm.

A problem developed during the project and the attempt to fix that problem led to a bigger problem.  The plant was then shut down “temporarily” and has never operated since 2009.

Duke Power has now decided that it’s better to just “retire” the plant.  Full decommissioning will take 40 to 60 years.  Most of the plant’s 600 workers will lose their jobs.  Duke Power customers (and fortunately I am not one since my city operates its own  power utility) will foot the over one billion (that’s not a typo) in costs the plant incurred since shutting down in 2009.  Not to mention another one billion to construct a new power plant.

Duke Power? It will pocket about $100 million from the fiasco because of how the “regulations” work.

And the then Progress Energy CEO who decided to take the DIY approach without competent supervision?  In China, he’d probably have been stood against a wall and executed.  In  Japan, he’d probably have had to resign in disgrace.

But in America, the rules are different.  When Progress Energy merged with Duke Power, he became CEO of the merged company… for one day, after which he was fired.  But that one day allowed him to collect $10 million in severance pay.  He’s now the CEO, with a $4 million salary, of the largest federal power provider –  the Tennessee Valley Authority.  Which means he’ll earn a nice federal government pension.

For enquiring minds who want all the gory details, start here and then go here.

And remember, don’t try this at home!


One response to “Honey, I Broke the Nuclear Power Plant…

  1. I read both the linked articles–before I did so, I was thinking it could be that Bill Johnson (the CEO of which you speak) may not have even known what was happening. It’s like Tony Hayward, former CEO of BP. The Gulf oil spill really was not his fault, but he got fired anyway, though I think that was due to the perception that some of his public statements were insensitive rather than incompetence or being blamed for the spill. I didn’t personally think he was insenstive, and the bottom line is, he wasn’t responsivle for the spill. The thing is, I’m not a fan of The Buck Stops Here mentality, because as a manager, I’m constantly amazed by how much I don’t get told. And no matter how many tight procedures and controls you have, the reality is, that sometimes you can’t know something unless someone breaks down and tells you. That said, it’s clear that Johnson DID know and made a major error in judgement. The galling part is, of course, the money. I’m sure the company was stuck based on the terms of his employment contract, which was done long before this decision. So, I can’t get too upset about the money he was paid, or will be paid. What galls me more is the amount of money customers will be screwed out of. Already have been, for the cost of purchasing alternative power, and again to build a new plant. Grrr. And the fact that Duke Power gets to keep a huge chunk of the money. Occupy Duke Power, lol.
    But back to Johnson for a second, what is the value of work–of any kind? Whatever someone is willing to pay you for it. I’m more upset about the salaries of sports stars, but…re-read previous sentence.

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