Joseph Carson (73530.2350@CompuServe.COM)
09 Dec 96 22:28:53 EST
The situation at the Millstone 3 Nuclear Power Plants is the most
significant in America commercial nuclear power since Three Mile Island.
The utility management established a culture in which any worker who
believed his duty required him/her to report a safety concern, realized that
they were likely ending their career. There are literally thousands of
violations of the NRC license at these plants, as thousands of more or less
"ad hoc" changes were made to plant systems without updating the design
documents that comprise part of the NRC license. The bottom line is rather
base - greed on part of utility in cutting costs at expense of safety, fear
on part of employees in voicing concerns.
Paul Galatis, the engineer whose story at Millstone was the cover story of
TIME magazine last March, is a dedicated Christian who integrated his
"whistleblowing" with his Christian beliefs in placing his responsibility to
public safety above his "nice house and car."
I take it as a "wake-up" call, other warning of the deliberate exclusion of
Christianity as an overt influence in the engineering profession, even
among professing Christian engineers. I have little doubt that some of the
NRC and utility engineers who "looked the other way" at safety deficiencies
at Millstone one of fear (at least in part) for their economic well-being,
go on short-term missions trips, serve in leadership roles in their
churches, etc. A similar situation exists in the Department of Energy, I
know from first hand experience.
I question whether there was (will be?) even one sermon about a Christian's
workplace and in his/her profession in Southeastern Connecticut connected
with this fiasco. Fiasco is not too strong. The utility has cut its
dividend - hurting many people dependent upon it; electric rates will rise,
more businesses will leave, grow elsewhere, or start-up elsewhere, one of
these plants will not run again, it's likely this will be a domino effect to
other of these plants, dislocating more workers, on and on.
I'm "SCANDALIZED" by it (ala SCANDAL OF THE EVANGELICAL MIND).
I invite anyone on list to try to connect ongoing discussion with
"intelligent design" to
this fiasco. If no connection can be made, I suggest that discussions about
"intelligent design" such as those ongoing here are the 1996 version of
"how many angels can dance on
head of pin."
Joe Carson, P.E.
The following is 12/6/96 editorial from the New London Day
Tinkering with change
NRC chairwoman replaced a few people, but must do more if agency is ever
to regain public trust, do job adequately
by MAURA CASEY
Shirley Ann Jackson took a few halting steps this week to repair the
integrity of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which she heads.
She has a lot more work to do.
Like repair work on a dilapidated house, the job isn't done just
because a few shingles on the roof are replaced. And that's the extent of
what Dr. Jackson did Monday when she placed new people in several of the
agency's top slots.
There is no question that her recent actions are the result of
problems at Millstone Station. Troubles at Connecticut's nuclear plants
are having a huge impact on the commercial nuclear field. In May, an
Institute of Nuclear Power Operations official said that the problems in
Connecticut have shaken the industry more than any event since Three Mile
Island. That's a strong statement from a member of the industry
organization that helps nuclear plants meet safety standards.
In the last few months, Dr. Jackson has transferred Thomas T. Martin,
former administrator of NRC Region 1, the jurisdiction which oversees
Connecticut's plants. Then she accepted the retirement of William T.
Russell, director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation.
Mr. Russell was particularly aware of the extent of Millstone's
problems since he preceded Mr. Martin as head of Region 1. Yet Mr.
Russell, like many other top agency managers, looked the other way.
This week Dr. Jackson filled several top jobs and accepted the
retirement of James Taylor, the NRC's executive director.
She is making changes. But the house that Dr. Jackson has only begun
to repair is still perilously close to falling apart. It's in danger
because top management of NRC has in the past worked far too closely _ in
sympathy if not outright collusion _ with top management of the industry
it is supposed to regulate.<
The public has lost faith in the agency because of the way in which
Mr. Russell, Mr. Martin and Mr. Taylor helped lead the NRC. Dr. Jackson
sends no signal of sweeping change by transferring one man and announcing
the retirements of two, while complimenting the new retirees for a job
well done. If they did such a swell job, why does the public have so
little trust in the NRC?
Dr. Jackson replaced longtime NRC bureaucrats with other longtime NRC
bureaucrats from different departments and different regions around the
country. That isn't enough.
She needs to appoint more outsiders. She needs people who have the
technical knowledge necessary to get the NRC back on its feet, but who
are not hampered by industry ties.
Further, Dr. Jackson needs to move forcefully to break the NRC's
appalling habit of penalizing its own employees who bring forth safety
In an agency survey, 40 percent of the NRC's own employees said
raising safety concerns about nuclear plants would hurt their careers.
This, from employees of the public agency mandated to keep those plants
Dr. Jackson needs to enforce a zero-tolerance policy within her agency
for whistleblower harassment, just as there should be no room for such
actions at nuclear plants. She can demonstrate that by giving more power
to the NRC Inspector General's office and by separating that office from
the influence of NRC management.
Dr. Jackson must take these steps to restore public trust. The
agency's reputation is in shreds.
Anyone who read NRC inspection reports of Millstone Units 1, 2, and 3
from 1991 to 1995 could see that the NRC routinely acknowledged the
existence of numerous problems at the plants but winked at many,
repeatedly penciling away violations. Those were the days when the
nuclear industry was under far less pressure to compete than it will be
in the future, as electric rates are deregulated and competition in
If the NRC looked the other way in the past, won't the temptation to
do so again only increase as nuclear utilities strain under deregulation?
To prevent that from happening and to put public safety first, Dr.
Jackson must root out agency collusion with the nuclear power industry.
The reluctance of the agency to confront the nuclear industry with
evidence of wrongdoing was particularly obvious in early November at the
American Nuclear Society Convention in Washington, D.C. During a panel
discussion, a member of the audience asked James Lieberman, director of
the NRC's Office of Enforcement, why he has NEVER levied on a nuclear
executive an individual fine for harassing whistleblowers. The NRC has
had power for years to levy such financial penalties against company
officers if necessary, but the agency has never done so despite egregious
instances of such harassment _ particularly involving Northeast
Utilities, the operator of Millstone Station.
``We haven't yet found the right case, because we expect that to be
hotly contested,'' Mr. Lieberman replied. ``We just haven't found the
right case. We have a lower threshold when we impose fines on
corporations. We want to be comfortable that our actions are
well-supported. We may do it sooner rather than later.''
Mr. Lieberman's remarks are tantamount to admitting that the NRC would
never take dramatic steps to curb whistleblower harassment at nuclear
plants, especially given the clear-cut cases his office has handled
That is the kind of reluctance that Dr. Jackson must confront if she
is to help her agency develop the integrity it needs to police an
industry under increasing economic pressure. For if NRC officials were
tempted before to cut utilities a break, that will only increase in years
to come unless Dr. Jackson acts.
She's fixed a few shingles on the NRC's rotten roof. Now she must
shore up the agency's eroding foundation.
Paul M. Blanch
135 Hyde Rd.
West Hartford CT 06117