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Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant Whistleblower Fired


Guest Marthena
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Guest Marthena

Kerry Beal, a whistleblower who exposed overworked and exhausted guards at the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant, was notified this week by owner Exelon Nuclear that he “did not meet the selection criteria” for continuing to work at the plant.

 

Beal filmed guards sleeping at the plant only after his efforts to notify Wackenhut (Exelon’s Peach Bottom security contractor) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) of the regular occurrence of sleeping guards were met with inaction. Wackenhut Corporation lost its contract to provide security to the Peach Bottom nuclear plant because of the resulting publicity surrounding the sleeping guards.

 

“This is the stupidest thing they could have done. Now, they’ll ensure no one else will be brave enough to come forward and try to fix problems” said Danielle Brian, Executive Director, Project On Government Oversight.

 

Mr. Beal’s whistle-blowing prompted USA Today to editorialize: “The Peach Bottom case is a stark example of what has to go right in the crucial effort to keep nuclear plants safe. In this case, the plant owner, the security company and the NRC all failed. It shouldn't take a hidden camera to make them do their jobs.” (see http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2007/10/our-view-on-nuc.html )

 

An internal Wackenhut email released by POGO today shows that up until a few weeks ago, guards were still being forced to work more than 60 hours per week. The October 16, 2007 email from Wackenhut manager David Draghi notes: “I have revised the shift schedule…If you can afford to start giving your team members a break from 60 hours please do so.”

 

A Nuclear Regulatory Commission Order from 2003 sought to reign in the problem of overworked guards. But industry efforts to weaken the Order prevailed, resulting in the current situation where security officers can work up to 72 hours per week. POGO issued a letter to NRC Chairman Klein today pointing out that pending efforts at the NRC to strengthen the rules are being dragged out for another two years.

 

In the letter, Ms. Brian also noted that the problem is not limited to Peach Bottom or Wackenhut but is a nationwide phenomenon, stating, “Blame cannot simply be laid at Wackenhut’s door: these abuses have been occurring for years under the NRC’s watch. In February 2007, The Patriot-News of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, reported on exhaustion of security officers at Three Mile Island [Pennsylvania], noting that in 2005, “officials cited three security workers for inattentiveness, or sleeping, on the job”; a Securitas security officer at Beaver Valley [Pennsylvania] was fired two weeks ago for sleeping; and Entergy security officers were recently caught sleeping at Indian Point [New York]. Today’s Miami Herald reports sleeping security guards at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant [Florida]. http://www.miamiherald.com/top_stories/story/290238.html. It is time for the NRC to take responsibility for the excessive hours and fatigue of the security forces.”

 

In an October 17 letter to the NRC, POGO complained about the NRC’s decision to investigate Mr. Beal rather than investigate the NRC’s own failures to respond to concerns raised by whistleblowers like Mr. Beal: “Complaining to supervisors quickly proved fruitless. NRC Region I refused to investigate seriously the security concerns raised in the March letter 2007. Under these circumstances, it was more than understandable; it was heroic, for Mr. Beal to videotape the sleeping guards.”

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