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#NukeGate: Dysfunction Detailed

“Every night … over 80 percent of the people employed did absolutely no work at all.”

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The saga over South Carolina’s spectacularly failed experiment in the nuclear power industry – a.k.a. #NukeGate – has become white noise at this point.

The outrage endures (and rightfully so), but by now people have pretty much lost the ability to be shocked – even if those of us in the media are doing our best to keep shocking.

The attention-grabbing headlines persist (even on our news site), but Palmetto State residents have pretty much heard it all.  Not only that, they know whatever happens – they’re going to get the shaft.

They know crony capitalist energy provider SCANA and state-owned power company Santee Cooper spent $10 billion on a pair of reactors that are never going to produce a single watt of energy.

They know much of this cost was placed on their backs as a result of the now-notorious Base Load Review Act (BLRA).

They know there were misled.

They know those who misled them are profiting.

They know there are lawsuits.

They know there are criminal investigations.

They know the drama is costing our state jobs.

They know politicians are scrambling.

They know there are deals on the table.

And that one of those deals might get them some of their money back.

Again, though … at this point it’s all white noise.

Want something to cut through it?

Earlier this month, we heard from a carpenter named Francis McArdle who worked on the site as an employee of general contractor Fluor.  This is the company that was brought in on #NukeGate at the end of 2015 to provide “project execution and direction, accountability for and management of professional staff and craft personnel, and a focus on safety, quality and project delivery certainty.”

Project delivery certainty … 

(Click to view)

(Via: SCANA)

Would have been nice, right?

Anyway …

“I was employed by the general contractor Fluor in 2016 at V.C. Summer,” McArdle told us.  “Within one week I knew the project was doomed, although my supervisors were clueless.  I was only a journeyman carpenter, but it was very apparent to me that the way that the project was being managed could only lead to disaster.”

We’ve heard similar accounts on many occasions from multiple other workers, but McArdle is one of the few V.C. Summer employees who was willing to go on the record regarding what he saw.

“I worked the night shift, six ten-hour shifts per week,” he told us.  “I was not a foreman, just a staff master carpenter.”

According to McArdle, he was well-compensated for his labors, too – receiving a wage and per diem package that worked out to roughly $115,000 a year.  That’s good money anywhere, especially in a state as dirt poor as South Carolina.

Eventually, though, he left the job site.  How come?

“Every night, not some nights or once in a while, over 80 percent of the people employed did absolutely no work at all,” he recalled.  “This was widely known by all.  When I confronted my associates and superiors they told me that ‘you don’t understand the nuclear industry.’  I understood business well enough to know that even the government couldn’t afford such a massive transfer of monies without getting anything, or at best twenty cents on the dollar. No venture could be sustained like this successfully. I left after securing alternative employment.”

McArdle told us it was “astounding to see over 1,000 employees obviously, openly doing nothing six nights a week.”

Well … nothing on the project.

Employees at V.C. Summer busied themselves “watching movies on cell phones, sleeping, building projects to take home, or simply sitting around shooting the breeze in groups from four to fifteen persons,” according to McArdle.

“I repeatedly asked any and all how in the hell they expected to stay employed?” he said.  “Or how do you feel about stealing a paycheck that you didn’t earn?  Needless to say I was rapidly marginalized into a very tiny minority of ‘goody-goody’ workers.  We were not popular and repeatedly discouraged by our direct supervisors.  It was stunning!”

McArdle said he’s only seen “a similar work ethic or culture once before” on a project.

“It was in the Naval Air Station Jacksonville federal civil service public works maintenance crew,” he told us, adding that former U.S. president Ronald Reagan “fired them all” and took the contract private.

Unfortunately the V.C. Summer contract was private … it was just subsidized on the backs of ratepayers thanks to liberal South Carolina lawmakers.

Again, nothing McArdle told us was necessarily surprising.  As noted, we’ve heard it from many other employees.  And again, at this point nothing’s shocking when it comes to boondoggle.

Well … other than trusting the same people who got us into the mess to extricate us from it.

But it’s a peek into just how poorly managed this project truly was …

***

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