When A Strike is a Possibility at a Plant

Diane Screnci
Senior Public Affairs Officer
Region I

Unionized workers at the James A. FitzPatrick nuclear power plant in Oswego, N.Y. recently voted to accept a new contract days before the current pact was to expire. The union representing operations, maintenance and radiation protection staff and Entergy, the company that owns the plant, reached a new four-year agreement.

While it was good news to learn an agreement had been reached, the agency had been tracking the status of the negotiations all along and was prepared to oversee that the unit would be operated safely during any job action.

We have procedures to make sure the owner is taking all of the appropriate steps to ensure continued safe operation in the event of a strike. For example, as a contract expiration is drawing near, the NRC Resident Inspectors assigned to the site and specialist inspectors from the Regional Office in King of Prussia, Pa., review the company’s contingency plans for staffing and other actions to prepare for a strike.

We don’t get involved in contract negotiations. We ensure that the requirements of the facility’s license and technical specifications are maintained at all times. At FitzPatrick and other plants facing an impending contract expiration, NRC inspectors ensure all emergency plan positions are properly staffed and that qualified licensed operators operate the plant. They also review the qualifications of replacement workers to verify they were properly trained to step in.

In the event of a strike at any plant, the NRC Resident Inspectors would be supplemented by additional NRC inspectors to provide round-the-clock NRC inspection coverage for the first 48 hours. We’d have continued additional site coverage for at least the first two weeks. If need be, we could continue enhanced inspector coverage for as long as necessary.

Author: Moderator

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

4 thoughts on “When A Strike is a Possibility at a Plant”

  1. The NRC needs to address this “safety” concern at once, because to only add additional inspectors is akin to looking the other way… Contract disputes create lingering frustrations and that can easily lead to “problems” which then threaten the operation of the facility and thereby the rest of US.

    Unless the NRC is seen as a fair and impartial 3rd party, the NRC will always be considered on the side of the Operator, especially since the NRC has a practice of sharing “private” submissions by plant employees to the NRC with Plant management, which makes workers reluctant to speak up because they will get discriminated against or worse, black balled!

    This happened at San Onofre NPP. Long time employees had their nuclear careers destroyed because they spoke up about safety at a time when the Operator (SCE) was trying to coverup both its failed replacement steam generator design and its operational mistakes that led to the radioactive leak on 01/31/12. These mistakes shut down the plant for good, since SCE chose to not determine the root cause because it would have identified they poor design and operational errors as the cause. The NRC was only too happy to end its own root cause investigation, they did not want to publicly admit that Region IV was part of the problem, since they allowed SCE to use the 50.59 like-for-like replacement part “loophole” instead of the 50.90 which would have exposed DVE faulty replacement steam generator (RSG) design to public scrutiny, saving ratepayers many billions of dollars.

    It must also be said that SCE’s CA State regulator (CPUC) also played a major role in covering for SCE’s mistakes in what is now know as #SanOnofreGate *. Here is the latest Media release:

    Subject: Governor Brown–Obstruction of Justice at San Onofre

    Greetings: Design flaws that caused the 4 new steam generators at the San Onofre nuclear plant to fail in January 2012 were known to Edison executives before the machines were installed. As the generators were being designed, knowledge of the defects was being recorded in Edison letters, e-mails, meeting minutes, action item lists, internal memoranda and in a root cause report issued after the generators quit working.

    The steam generators failed before Edison obtained California utility commission approval to put their costs permanently into rates. If it was discovered Edison executives deployed the steam generators after Edison was on notice of their defects Edison would have to absorb over $5 billion in losses. Under law, utility customers had the right to a notice and hearing before customers could be forced to pay the $5 billion bill. As part of a judicial like proceeding the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) announced in October 2012, Edison’s customers had a right to obtain the evidence showing Edison’s knowledge of the defects. Customers had a right to present and cross-exam under oath Edison officials about the evidence at a hearing before the commission.

    By early December 2012 an Edison executive and a CPUC administrative law judge presiding over the case were plotting to stall the hearing and suppress the report showing Edison’s knowledge of the defects. In February 2013 a U.S. Senator released the report showing Edison was on notice of the defects before the machines were deployed. In March 2013 the CPUC’s President, the CPUC Energy Division chief, and Edison’s long-time general counsel met secretly in Warsaw, Poland and agreed to make utility customers pay most of the damages the failed steam generators caused.

    In late May 2013 U.S. Senator Barbra made public two letters showing Edison executives were on notice of the defects before the generators’ were deployed. On 6 June 2013 Edison recruited Governor Brown to aid their plot to keep the CPUC from allowing customers to show Edison was on notice of the defects before the new steam generators were started. Governor Brown agreed and immediately issued an Edison friendly press release. Brown appointees approved the plan to kill the CPUC investigation into Edison’s conduct and making Edison customers pay more than 70% of the damages. Governor Brown’s staff had a least 65 secret written messages in a proceeding in which “ex parte” communications were prohibited. A former staff member Brown appointed CPUC president had 63 secret communications regarding the San Onofre proceeding. While customers were seeking to enforce their Public Records Act request for the Brown and Picker secret CPUC communications Brown vetoed a bill that would have helped the customers obtain the documents. Senator Boxer called for a criminal investigation. A Superior Court judge found there was probable cause to believe felonies have been committed. A search warrant executed at the former CPUC President’s house unearthed notes recording the secret pact made in Warsaw, Poland. In the famous Watergate case the culprits slipped up because they obstructed justice (a crime) in connection with the investigation into the burglary at the Watergate office building. In this case the culprits have repeated the error. They have obstructed justice by suppressing evidence, and rigging the CPUC proceedings to deny utility customers the opportunity to present evidence showing Edison was on notice of the defects in the steam generators before they were installed at San Onofre.

    Michael J. Aguirre, Esq.

    * The hashtag about the ongoing investigation into the multi-billion $ SCE-CPUC ripoff.

  2. I do not know the union(s) that represent nuclear power plant employees at the Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Station owned and operated by Entergy. I only know from my very old experience at a publicly-owned and operated nuclear power plant in the Midwest, that the three unions that represented our hourly employees there, had no problem whatsoever with a so-called “no strike clause” in our contracts with them. The unions worked with management and both parties agreed that a strike a our nuclear plant could jeopardize public health and safety. It just made perfect sense. Evidently, over the years at some plants, including those operated by Entergy, those contracts allow the unthinkable, allow public health and safety to be put at risk if a strike occurs. How sad that Entergy and perhaps other nuclear plant owners have allowed this to happen. And to think that the nuclear industry’s regulator has no rule prohibiting a strike at a nuclear power plant is unconscionable!

  3. Nuclear plant operators should never be allowed to strike. It is akin to air traffic controllers going on strike. It puts public health & safety at risk. Putting additional & totally unqualified NRC inspectors at a nuke site during a strike would be as useful as rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic!

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