Westinghouse director during nuclear debacle pleads guilty in federal court

Updated: Jun. 10, 2021 at 12:57 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - The former Westinghouse Electric Corporation vice president and project director of the V.C. Summer Nuclear project pled guilty in federal court Thursday.

According to Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart, Carl Dean Churchman, pled guilty to making a false statement to an FBI agent during the investigation of the failed nuclear project at the V.C. Summer site.

“This guilty plea shows that the investigation into the V.C. Summer nuclear debacle did not end with the former SCANA executives,” said DeHart. “We are committed to seeing this case through and holding all individual and corporate wrongdoers accountable.”

“Today’s plea highlights the FBI’s determination to conduct a comprehensive investigation that yields the truth,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Susan Ferensic. “We will continue to ask important questions and identify all involved in this failed nuclear project.”

Evidence presented to the court showed Churchman was interviewed by FBI Special Agent Aaron Hawkins in May 2019. During the interview, Agent Hawkins asked Churchman several questions about Westinghouse’s reporting of V.C. Summer’s completion dates to SCANA and Santee Cooper (“the owners”) in early 2017.

Churchman told Agent Hawkins that Westinghouse’s executives did not consult him prior to reporting the completion dates to the owners. Churchman claimed that he did not know the dates before they were reported and that he did not know who made the decision to report the dates to the owners.

However, emails and other documents obtained during the investigation of the failed nuclear project at the V.C. Summer site revealed that Churchman lied to Agent Hawkins during the May 2019 interview. An internal Westinghouse email chain establishes that Churchman received and discussed the dates in early 2017.

Additionally, detailed notes from an early 2017 meeting with Westinghouse executives by SCANA’s Executive Vice President Steve Byrne revealed that Churchman reported the completion dates to SCANA on February 14, 2017, directly contradicting the statements Churchman made to Agent Hawkins.

On May 19, 2021, Churchman sat down for another interview with the FBI. At the beginning of the interview, Churchman acknowledged that his previous statements were untrue.

Thursday’s plea is the third stemming from the investigation of the failed nuclear project.

Byrne previously pled guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, and former SCANA Chief Executive Officer and former Chairman of its Board of Directors Kevin Marsh pled guilty in federal court to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud.

Thursday’s plea also follows a previously announced agreement with Dominion Energy that will, over time, provide at least four billion dollars of South Carolina ratepayer relief; and it follows a previously announced settlement by SCANA and SCE&G on a Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit charging them with defrauding investors by making false and misleading statements about the nuclear plant expansion that was ultimately abandoned.

Churchman faces a maximum penalty on the federal charge of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, supervised release of up to three years, and a $100 special assessment.

United States District Judge Mary G. Lewis accepted the guilty plea and will sentence Churchman after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.

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