U.S. NRC Blog

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Raising Safety Concerns at Nuclear Power Plants – No Matter the Location

There’s been some attention lately to the issue of whether or not plant workers at nuclear plants located on federal property can file lawsuits in state courts if they believe they were let go or had their performance downgraded for raising safety issues. This issue is been raised specifically for the San Onfore Nuclear Generating Station in California, which leases land from Camp Pendleton.

To be clear, the NRC and the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) have authority to enforce federal law protecting workers from discrimination for having raised safety concerns. This authority extends to all plants regardless of the location.

The NRC responds to safety concerns raised by any person, and when warranted, takes action against a nuclear facility regardless of where the plant is located. In fact, it is illegal for licensees to take discriminatory action against a worker for raising safety concerns to management or the NRC.

Allegations of discrimination may be investigated by both the NRC and DOL. The Energy Reorganization Act (Section 211) provides a personal remedy through the DOL, such as “reinstatement” and “compensation for lost wages when an employer is found by DOL to have discriminated against an alleger.” The NRC’s authority involves issuing a fine or other enforcement action to the licensee when retaliation against a worker has occurred.

If an allegation is brought to the NRC, it is assigned to an Allegation Coordinator, who then arranges for an evaluation of the concern. This evaluation can result in an investigation, and in some cases, enforcement action against the licensee. There is even a program offered that allows an individual and employer (or former employer) the opportunity to resolve the individual’s allegation of discrimination using a trained mediator to help settle the dispute.

The NRC believes all workers must feel free to raise concerns to their employers so that issues can be dealt with quickly. At any time, however, employees and members of the public have the option of bringing safety concerns directly to the NRC. In no way should nuclear plant workers in any state feel as though their concerns will not be heard.

If any person wishes to raise a safety concern anonymously, please contact the NRC via email ALLEGATION@nrc.gov or call the toll-free safety hotline at 1-800-695-7403.

Lara Uselding
Region IV Public Affairs

5 responses to “Raising Safety Concerns at Nuclear Power Plants – No Matter the Location

  1. former NRC enforcer July 6, 2012 at 6:08 pm

    I think this post may inadvertently underplay the importance of individuals taking prompt action to protect their own rights by seeking a remedy from those agencies that have the power to do so — and NRC is not that agency. While I agree that NRC has the authority to investigate any safety complaint or allegation of discrimination against an employee for raising safety concerns (and I would encourage any person to relay those concerns to NRC), the NRC does not provide a forum to seek a personal remedy. A person who believes that they have been the subject of retaliation must seek the remedy elsewhere – usually the US Department of Labor. Per the Supreme Court’s decision in English v General Electric, state remedies may also be available. Persons who wish to seek reinstatement or other compensatory damages should not wait for the NRC to investigate and act — to do so risks missing the statutory deadlines for filing complaints.

  2. Norman B. Pierce, PhD July 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    And what is the procedure for employees of the NRC to report a safety concern anonymously?

    • Moderator July 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      While NRC employees can file anonymously the same way as the public, they are expected to use the avenues designed for NRC employees, specifically the agency’s open door policy, the non-concurrence process and the differing professional opinions program.

  3. steamshovel2002 July 6, 2012 at 11:53 am

    Why is it a requirement the NRC allegation department only accepts anonymous allegations and concerns. It is a disgrace that anyone in the USA and any nuclear plant employee is forced to go anonymous based on any fear of ramifications. Why isn’t it a matter of honor that employees disclose safety concerns openly and nobody goes anonymous?

    So why can’t you stake your honor to the NRC allegation department…please put my full name on any of your allegation documents surrounding any of my concerns. Why is it a agency rule that no names goes on any allegation document even, if the alleger wants his names on the documents or request for information.

    You are never protected if your name isn’t on the document or allegation!.

    Mike Mulligan
    Hinsdale, NH

    • Moderator July 9, 2012 at 3:55 pm

      The NRC will take all reasonable efforts not to disclose allegers’ identities; however, there is nothing prohibiting an individual who brings safety concerns to the NRC from disclosing their identity outside the NRC if they so desire.

      NRC recognizes that some people will only come forward if they believe their identities will be protected. For this reason, NRC staff will make arrangements to protect the individual’s identity by calling a person at their home or meeting with him/her at a discreet location.

      Even if they do not object to being identified as the source of an allegation, the NRC will not reveal their identity unless it is necessary to evaluate the allegation — so as not to deter others from raising issues. It may be required to reveal an alleger’s identity in some of the following rare circumstances: in cases involving discrimination where it would be necessary to investigate this with the licensee; in cases where the NRC is required to respond to a court or Commission order; or the NRC needs to pursue a wrongdoing investigation or support a hearing on an enforcement matter.

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