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

Author: Moderator

Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission

11 thoughts on “Raising Safety Concerns at Nuclear Power Plants – No Matter the Location”

  1. The nuclear industry is built, supported and run by numbers. Facts given as charts and graphs. Can the moderator support and encourage the nuclear workers by giving the public some data. Show the number of allegations raised compared to the number of wins going through the Department of Labor/OSHA Hearings filed under 42 USC 5851 Energy Reorganization Act. Can we get a number of cases reviewed by the NRC after the Administrative Law Judge has reached a decision? If the numbers support what you are saying, I believe this could build confidence in the industry. There is nothing that speaks louder than facts.

  2. Nuclear Whistleblowers are not protected by government agencies: I go through the proper procedures for reporting nuclear safety and EEOC issues. First I report it to my supervisor, then HR, when i am ignored and management is allowed to retaliate against me, I file a complaint with the Minnesota Dept of Human Rights (MDHR), NRC, then I try the Regional DOL and the Regional EEOC. When my union failed to represent me during arbitration I filed a complaint with the NRLB These government agencies completely ignored my complaint, never call my witnesses and refuse to investigate my complaints. After 3 years of fighting worthless local and regional regulatory agencies I send my complaint to the Federal Administrative law judge (located in DC). My family is convinced after 3 years of fighting local and regional regulatory agencies that they convince me to drop all complaints against the company and ask me to stop fighting a large monopoly with unlimited money and attorneys. I send a letter to the Federal Judge to stop my complaint as I am tired of fighting. To my amazement the Federal Judge granted me permission for a hearing, after I had sent my letter to stop the complaint. My first break through and it was with a Federal Judge. A Federal Judge reads my complaint and believes it has merit while all other local agencies ignore me. This alone indicates that large monopolies are influencing the regulatory agencies and that whistle blowers are not being protected. A nuclear whistleblower will have to go through years of litigation, have to spend over $60,000 in lawyer fees (minimum) plus go through years of hell, extreme pressure and retaliation before they can win their case. It is not worth it.

    Because of this no one will speak out against nuclear safety concerns. Safety issues will be ignored and the US may end up with a Fukushima Daiichi.

  3. The US dept of labor is being influenced by money. I tried this avenue as well as my coworker. Both of us were retaliated after we raised issues at a US nuclear power plant. He elevated a nuclear safety concern with the EDG’s. He was attacked by the electrical engineering group for over a year while management did nothing to protect him. After one year of fighting he ended up being correct and the engineering dept had to address the safety flaw in the computer program for the load sequencers. What happened next is typical of the culture of the nuclear power plants. He was immediately attacked and his position as a lead was pulled as well as all overtime. He ended up having a nervous break down because of the retaliation. He tried the same avenues I tried such as our Employees Concerns Coordinator and the DOL. Both are a joke. The DOL is a complete waste of our time and tax payers money. The Employees Concern Coordinator did nothing to stop managements retaliation against us ether. But he did help out an engineering supervisor who was caught destroying evidence in a NRC investigation. The NRC pulled his nuclear access because of it. Instead of firing him, the Employees Concern Coordinator landed him a job at another power plant in which he was my supervisor. Who promotes a man caught destroying important NRC documentation, while ignoring those who are elevating safety concerns?

    I attended a shift engineers retirement party. At the party were travelling maintenance workers. I pointed out the corruption at the nuclear power plants. These men all agreed with me. A young pipe fitter said the nuclear power plants have the worse reputation of cheating, stealing and falsifying documentation. He was shocked that this behavior is allowed. If the DOL was protecting us, this behavior would stop.

    Last, during the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in 2011, several members of TEPCO were brought into a large meeting room, at the nuclear power plant I worked for, so that employees could get honest and straight answers about the accident. The company spokesman kept telling us that the liberal media is corrupt and we should not listen to them. An employee asked about reports of large quantities of water coming into contact with the reactors. The company spokesman said the media was lying to us and overblowing the incident. It was months later that I discovered our management was lying to us.

    The Fukushima Daiichi investigation determined that the government agencies were being influence by large powerful monopolies (and their money) and had turned a blind eye to safety concerns. I firmly believe this same culture exists in the US.

  4. No one is anonymous when you work at a Nuclear Plant especially if you are already being harassed and retaliated against, not to mention if you are seen walking into the Concerns Manager’s office. Probably, before you articulate your concern to your Concerns Program manager everyone in the shop knows about it. Why, because of the close nit relationships and cameras. I&C and security maintain these instruments. What if someone in security or I&C that maintains the cameras wanted to get a family member hired on into his department that he works. And what if those open positions are limited. It is a known fact that security personnel use security as a stepping stone to get a nuclear plant job such as I&C or another maintenance type job. Something to consider before meeting with your Concerns Manager. I know I was seen, but by that time I didn’t care.

  5. I feel your pain! I am also a whistleblower, who has experienced similar circumstances as yours. The Federal Agencies converse through the MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) that way nothing has to be documented. Then you have the agreement states, inwhich, their contracted employees will be called into play…doctors, psychologist, etc. Not to mention your Health Care Provider, your Investment company and so on. Meeting the Affirmative Action qouta, allows the men to receive their PPP bonuses. That’s why I was hired on Dec. 27, 2006. I was only 1 of 2 females in my department, for several years. I understand affirmative action is no longer used for PPP bonuses. So far as sexual harrassment, I experienced that on a daily basis. The only thing I personally can do is help the next generation of females how to navigate the long standing discrimatory culture within the nuclear industry. It is a safety issue. All women in this industry will be, more than likely reporting to, evaluated by (OJT’S, OJE’S), MEDICAL REVIEW OFFICER, PSYCHOLOGIST, SECURITY, NRC, DOL…etc. all men and majority family members and good buddies. That is the reason it is a safety issue to the industry! Men are trained. Their skills are built, set up for success. The companies need the minorities so they can get both state and federal funding. If you are there to do your job, per your job title and according to federal regulations and laws, you are intimidating to the ones who have been there for so many years and have settled into their comfort zones. See goodjobsfirst.org for federal and state funding this site might help you to understand how affirmative action is used/abused. I suggest all nuclear workers to know 42 U.S.C. 5851 and 10 CFR 26 like the back of your hand. Grab a copy of the B.O.P. and FFD policy and download Department of Labors Practice and Procedures for hearings. Document everything you do on a daily basis, comments made to you, condition reports, instruments you worked that day and make sure you write down the name of the NRC Inspectors name that was on site that day. The reason I say this is because it is NRC’S responsibility to ensure to make sure the license plant is complying with NRC regulations and protecting the public call him/her immediately when you feel there is a violation. One point of contact. One person to hold accountable! The Inspector has current information of concerns and condition reports, that you as nuclear worker might not know about and who knows your concern or CR might be related to the CR that is being investigated already.

  6. i believed I stumbled upon Sarbanes Oxley violations in 2012, 2013 and 2014 when I filed a complaint against Xcel Energy for discrimation and sexual harassment being conducted at the US nuclear power plants in Minnesota. My complaint was never investigated and the company fired me with an open EEOC complaint. When I researched the ORG charts I discovered ghost contractors that did not exist. These contractors had no email address and no phone number. They were just a name on an org chart. When I asked corporate security to investigate contractors security badges they were told not to investigate the contractors by upper management. Number one indication of fraud.

    Number 2 indication of fraud is my personnel file was inaccurate and had me workiing for the wrong supervisor at the wrong plant most of my 14 years of employment. Number 3 the government agencies never addressed pay equity among men and women. I asked for this in my complaint yet nothing was presented to me. Number 4 the women discovered upper management was all white men many with a HS education and we’re almost all ex navy. This lacked any affirmative action and did not qualify the nuclear power plants as Federal contractors. Number 5 I was fired with an Open EEOC complaint and the EEOC said that was OK. Number 6 my Union IBEW 949 stated I was fired without written procedures and the reason I was fired lack creditability My arbitration was dragged out almost to 2 years. During arbitration my Union told me I needed to accept scamming as it was part of the culture at investor owned utilities. My rep said they scammed at Otter tail. During arbitration I had an open EEOC and NRC complaint. My Union told me they could not help me and told me to take a small settlement during arbitration. I declined the settlement money and I hour after arbitration the NRC called me and the EEOC contacted me regarding my compliant. What are the odds 2 regulatory agency contact me within 12 hours of arbitration?

    My case represents the corruption of government agencies and large monopoliezs many of which are in bed with corrupt companies.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

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

  11. 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

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