Virginia Electric and Power Co. entered into an ill-fated contract for uranium with Westinghouse Electric Co. in 1972 despite its failure to agree to contract terms Vepco originally sought, a top Vepco official testified yesterday.
Ten major utilities are suing Westinghouse over its failure to honor long-term contracts for supplying uranium.
Stanley Ragone, Vepco executive vice president, said his company gave Westinghouse - not even on the original bid list - the contract because the price was right and because Westinghouse "assured" Vepco it could and would deliver.
When Vepco first called for bids in 1972 for up to 14 million pounds of uranium for delivery from 1975 through 1980, it wanted the supplier to agree to "certify its size of uranium reserves and to "assure" Vepco of delivery, Ragone told the U.S. District Court here during the trial yesterday.
Although Westinghouse would not agree to those specifications, it got the contract anyway, partly because its bid was about $5 million below the next lowest bidder and the utility has an obligation to supply services to its customers at the lowest cost possible, he said.
In addition, Ragone said, Westinghouse told Vepco in writing that it needn't worry: Westinghouse is "the largest purchaser" of uranium from the government, had purchased uranium offered, and had an exploration program going besides. Also, "Westinghouse has never missed a delivery of uranium to its customers," the company now on trial insisted.
"We basically felt that Westinghouse had been pretty truthful through the years and they would abide by the contract," Ragone told the court. He added he also "couldn't see" how anyone would agree to deliver uranium at prices fixed for the first three years of the contract "without having that uranium."
He also said he thought Vepco was protected by another clause in the contract which allows the utility to buy promised supplies not furnished by Westinghouse on the open market and to charge the company for the difference in cost.
"We would probably be better off if we took the second lower bidder now," Ragone lamented.
The 1972 contract is one of three that Vepco contends Westinghouse should be forced to performed despite the company's claim that it is excused under a section of the Uniform commercial Code from fulfilling them because unforeseen events made it "commercially impracticable" to do so.
Westinghouse cites the Arab oil embargo, an international uranium cartel, and certain government actions as the unforeseen events that forced the market price of uranium up to $26 a pound at the time two years ago when Westinghouse announced it no longer could fulfill its contracts.
Vepco is one of 10 major utilities seeking in this case to force Westinghouse to deliver the uranium at the $8- to $12-a-pound prices promised or pay damages which mount to the replacement cost at the current market prices of more than $40 a pound.
Ragone said yesterday Vepco already has contracted for enough uranium, at prices of $40 and more a pound, to meet the utility's uranium requirements through 1979, but has not obtained sufficient amounts to fill the void left by Westinghouse's action.
Vepco operates two nuclear generating units which supply 25 per cent of the total energy needs of its 1.2 million customers in Virginia, West Virginia and North Carolina. Ragone said the price it now has to pay for uranium has a "serious" impact on its budget, and ultimately on its customers' rates.
In its cross-examination, Westinghouse lawyer Rosewell Page said the company would seek to show that it was "open and above board" during its negotiations with Vepco, and that it identified "at an early date its supply problems."