Augusta Chronicle Runs Propaganda for Southern Company’s Plant Vogtle

Update December 19, 2016

Update June 14, 2016:

Billy Morris‘s Augusta Chronicle, Augusta, Georgia’s only daily newspaper, has long been, despite its self-proclaimed conservatism, a booster for the big business/big government projects on which this city depends. These include Fort Gordon, Augusta University (Medical College of Georgia), the Savannah River Site (“the bomb factory”) and Plant Vogtle, the site of the first new major nuclear power construction in the United States in decades. Of course, Plant Vogtle could never have been more than a twinkle in the eyes of crony capitalists without President Obama’s federal loan guarantees and a rubber-stamp Public Service Commission and state legislature. The commission regularly approves passing Vogtle’s ever increasing cost overruns to the consumers, and the legislature got the ball rolling by passing SB 31 which allowed Georgia Power, the largest subsidiary of Southern Company, to charge its rate payers a fee that it could collect and use to build future electricity-generating capacity in the form of two additional nuclear reactors at Vogtle. Sadly, Georgia voters are still too concerned about unworthy people receiving Federal Medicaid dollars to get medical treatment, about their children learning facts about Muslims instead of scary fables, about illegal aliens stealing jobs, driving cars and attending university and about asylum-seeking children bringing diseases to care about who is rummaging through their pockets.

Despite the overwhelming victory the crony capitalists have secured in getting taxpayers and ratepayers to pay them to build unnecessary nuclear reactors, they didn’t achieve what they have in life by resting on their laurels. Indeed, they’re already looking to use $175 million of ratepayer money to study the feasibility of more nuclear reactors in a location south of Columbus, Georgia. Incidentally, the proposed location is right next to a federal immigration detention facility run by a private prison corporation. Appreciate the efficiencies!

So Billy Morris has lifted the control rods and accelerated his nuclear boosterism by publishing a series of “profiles” of workers at Plant Vogtle. I’d seen them but did not really think about it until I read the profile published on June 11, 2016 entitled “Curiosity brings Puerto Rican to nuclear field, Vogtle” by Walter C. Jones. I’m sure all of this content was spontaneously generated:

It wasn’t [Debi Pagan-Diaz’s] first job, though. During college, she was a co-op student working in a pharmaceutical factory. Compared with that, the nuclear industry is light-years ahead in safety protocols, she said.

“One of the things that was a big difference for me was all the procedures and the guidance that we have,” she said. “It’s not, ‘Just perform the task; figure it out,’ It’s, ‘Make sure that you use the process that we already have in place; make sure that if you have an event that happens to you, share it with the whole industry.’ That doesn’t happen in other types of industry, especially pharmaceuticals that I’m familiar with.” [emphasis added]

So I went back and found some of the earlier profiles. Walter Jones wrote another profile in the June 4, 2016 Augusta Chronicle entitled “Plant Vogtle employee gets in ‘on the ground floor.”

“Adam [Wilcher]’s dedication to new-nuclear construction is evident in his daily determination to ensure safe, quality, compliant construction in his current role as construction-compliance supervisor of the unit 3 and 4 nuclear islands,” said his boss, Vanderian K. Floyd, a construction compliance manager.

Although his Waynesboro neighbors know a lot about what goes on at Plant Vogtle, they don’t know the full extent of it. That gives Wilcher a sense of responsibility for them, Floyd said.

“He is proud of the fact that his position focuses on keeping his family and his neighbors safe by ensuring that construction is completed in compliance and safety,” he said.

They know about the jobs, the taxes generated and the increased economic activity as a result of the construction, Wilcher said. That’s why they have a positive view of Plant Vogtle.

On May 30, 2016, the Augusta Chronicle published another piece by Jones entitled “Explaining nuclear work part of Plant Vogtle employee’s job.”

Occasionally, someone on a tour has a different view of nuclear safety. “We get plenty of folks who want to argue about spent fuel and radiation,” [Joel] Leopard said with a grin. He tries to explain how nuclear power provides “baseload” generation 24 hours a day while solar and wind energy is intermittent, supporting the company’s position that a variety of generation sources are necessary.

Aren’t we fortunate to have a “cheerful, outgoing man with a quick smile” available to smack down misinformed socialist tree-huggers?

I don’t mean to impugn the individuals profiled in these articles. I’m glad they take pride in their work. I’m impressed with their credentials and work ethic. I’m happy they are earning good money. Even I couldn’t find any passages to mock in Jones’s May 21, 2016 “Former Navy vet one of many working on new Plant Vogtle reactors.” It’s just that the rank propaganda offends me.

Leaving my aesthetic concerns aside, I hope this propaganda wave alerts Georgia ratepayers, U.S. taxpayers and potential victims of the nuclear fuel cycle. They should be mobilizing to oppose whatever new schemes the nuclear boosters and crony capitalists propose.

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