Executive gets 15 months in prison in doomed nuclear project

United States Courts

A former executive utility who gave rosy projections on the progress of two nuclear power plants in South Carolina while they were hopelessly behind will spend 15 months in prison for the doomed project that cost ratepayers billions of dollars.

Ex-SCANA Corp. Executive Vice President Stephen Byrne apologized in court Wednesday, saying he thinks about how he let down customers, shareholders, employees, taxpayers and his family almost every day.

The two nuclear plants, which never generated a watt of power despite $9 billion of investment, were supposed to be “the crowning achievement of my life,” Byrne said. “But I failed.”

Byrne is the second SCANA executive to head to prison for the nuclear debacle. Former CEO Kevin Marsh was sentenced to two years in prison in October 2021 and released earlier in March after serving about 17 months.

Two executives at Westinghouse, which was contracted to build the reactors, are also charged. Carl Churchman, who was the company’s top official at the Fairfield County construction site at V.C. Summer, pleaded guilty to perjury and is awaiting sentencing. Former Westinghouse senior vice president Jeff Benjamin faces 16 charges. His trial is scheduled for October.

Both defense lawyers and prosecutors agreed to delay Byrne’s prison sentence until he testifies at Benjamin’s trial to make sure he is honest and helpful.

But that isn’t in doubt. Prosecutors said Byrne was the first executive to come to investigators after the project was abandoned in July 2017. His careful notes taken in every meeting of who spoke and what was said saved the government years of work unraveling the lies, prosecutor Winston Holliday said.

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