Former Westinghouse director pleads guilty in federal court to making false statements to FBI in V.C. Summer nuclear reactor investigation

South Carolina News

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – A former project director for the failed V.C. Summer nuclear reactor project north of Columbia pleaded guilty in federal court on Thursday.

Carl Dean Churchman, former Westinghouse Electric Corporation Vice President, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to an FBI agent during the investigation of the nuclear project, according to U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, M. Rhett DeHart.

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

According to DeHart’s office, FBI Special Agent Aaron Hawkins questioned Churchman about Westinghouse’s reporting of V.C. Summer’s completion dates to SCANA and Santee Cooper in early 2017, but he told the agent 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. 

But emails and other documents, which were obtained during an investigation into the failed plant, revealed Churchman lied to the agent during the interview.

“An internal Westinghouse email chain establishes that Churchman received and discussed the dates in early 2017,” DeHart’s office stated.

They say, “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 was in another meeting with the FBI where, at the beginning of the interview, he acknowledged that his previous statements were untrue.

DeHart stated that Thursday’s guilty plea is the third stemming from the investigation of the failed nuclear project. 

As part of the plea agreement, Churchman agreed to fully cooperate with federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies.  He also agrees to testify fully and truthfully before any grand juries until the investigation and prosecution in the criminal acts that occurred in relation to the failed V.C. Summer Nuclear plant expansion are complete.

On the federal charge, Churchman faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, supervised release of up to 3 years, and a $100 special assessment.

“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.”

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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