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