Besieged by consumer advocates and nuclear power foes, the chairman of Virginia Electric & Power Co. admitted today he is worried about the decade ahead.
"Candor requires me to acknowledge that I look forward to the 1980s with some apprehension," T. Justin Moore Jr. told shareholders at Vepco's annual meeting.
"Continuing inflation, environmental pressure and regulatory demands" are the issues that will make the '80s "extremely challenging for the company," Moore said.
All three issues were raised yesterday by dissident shareholders who urged Vepco to slash its electric rates, shut down its nuclear power plants and replace its board of directors with a "people's slate."
When it came time to vote, however, 99 percent of the shareholders voted against the dissident state of directors and an even bigger vote was cast against the antimanagement resolution.
"99.84 percent, I'm not sure even Ivory soap is that pure," smiled Moore, who gave the critics almost an hour to make their points, then criticized them for wasting the money of Vepco customers by harassing the company.
President Stanley Ragone said the cost of a routine application to federal officials to modify fuel racks at a nuclear power plant cost $133,718 more than expected because Potomac Alliance, an antinuclear group, intervened in the case.
If delays had continued much longer, the cost would have jumped to $1 million, because construction work on the nuclear plant would have had to be delayed, Ragone said.
Potomac Alliance member Fred Millar, a frequent Vepco critic, passed out literature at the meeting urging Vepco to "leave the two atomic plants in their usual, shutdown positions, thus preventing further Three Mile Island accidents."
Moore himself called the TMI incident, "the event with the most significance to our company" last year. After the accident, federal authorities forced Vepco to shut down two of its nuclear plants for checkups and repairs and to delay the startup of another atomic plant.
Unable to use the economical-to-operate nuclear plants, Vepco was forced to generate power with more expensive coal and oil burners and to buy power from other utilities. Electric bills jumped, adding consumer complaints to the voices of the nuclear power critics.
Vepco got a $46 million rate increase in Virginia last month and two weeks ago asked for another $77 million, which would raise bills about 5 percent.
Company officials disclosed that applications to raise bills will be made soon in West Virginia and North Carolina. In North Carolina, Vepco already charges 35 percent more than neighboring utilities and North Carolina officials are trying to kick Vepco out of the state.