Seabrook Station: Citizen Politics and Nuclear Power

By Henry F. Bedford | Go to book overview

6 Conclusion

"A $5 billion mess."

By turns irritated and reflective, Robert Harrison reviewed more than thirty years with the Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) in September 1988. He had resigned as president, a press release said, because of two coronary bypass operations, a history of cardiac disorders, and the advice of his physician to cease his professional activities. The board had elected John Duffett, the company's executive vice-president and chief operating officer, to replace Harrison and named William Scharffenberger, a West Virginia executive, to the vacant post of chairman. The new chairman's qualifications seemed peculiarly relevant; he had had "extensive experience in corporate reorganizations," the utility said, and was the president of another corporation that had been operating since 1985 under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. That provision allows an insolvent debtor, supervised by a bankruptcy court, to do business as usual while negotiating with creditors for a permanent solution to financial distress. For years, Robert Harrison's ability to borrow money had enabled PSNH to avoid bankruptcy, but the Wall Street well had run dry in mid-1987; at the end of January 1988, PSNH became the first public utility in more than fifty years to declare bankruptcy. His varied and ingenious financial schemes had sufficed only temporarily to meet the unending costs of Seabrook Station.

Would he do anything differently, a reporter asked. Maybe, Harrison joked, he should have "gone back to Oklahoma after I got out of school." What about his subsequent decisions about the nuclear plant? In general, Harrison thought the company's efforts had been prudent and defensible, however inept they might seem in retrospect. Management had erred in its forecast of oil prices, interest rates, and construction

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Seabrook Station: Citizen Politics and Nuclear Power
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Abbreviations xv
  • Chronology xvii
  • 1 - Introduction 3
  • 2 - The Environment 31
  • 3 - The Opposition 64
  • 4 - Money and Management 94
  • 5 - Emergency Planning 125
  • 6 - Conclusion 162
  • Epilogue 200
  • Notes 203
  • Index 217
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