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Investigation finds that USA’s Nuclear Regulatory Commission downplays safety warnings

Nuclear Regulatory Commission downplays safety warnings, investigation finds, CBS News, 20 Dec 17,   The federal agency responsible for safety at the nation’s 61 nuclear power plants routinely downplays warnings from plant workers and its own experts about problems, including some with potential for disaster, a Better Government Association investigation found.

Employees from U.S. nuclear power plants filed nearly 700 complaints with the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission in recent years, claiming retaliation for raising safety concerns, records show. The agency found no wrongdoing.

NRC officials also overruled recommendations from their own technical experts on how to protect plants from potential catastrophe spurred by floods, equipment failures, power outages and other problems.

This article was provided to The Associated Press by the nonprofit news outlet Better Government Association.

Interviews with more than 20 current and former NRC and nuclear plant employees reveal a pattern of top officials dismissing safety warnings rather than impose costly fixes on plant operators. Some said careers suffered as potential threats were never fully addressed.

“It’s the NRC’s longstanding practice to consistently declare the plants are safe and to avoid directly answering any questions that might suggest otherwise,” said Lawrence Criscione, an NRC risk analyst.

NRC officials would not consent to an interview. But NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng responded in writing to BGA questions……..

The nuclear industry, through its trade group and individual companies, often downplays the seriousness of problems highlighted by NRC experts. Exelon and others in the industry bat down potential rules and regulations by pleading to NRC’s top managers……….

The problem, say people who conduct government reviews, is that the NRC’s final rulings often don’t reflect warnings from its experts.

“Management tells you where they want the answer to go. If you push, you’re not going to get promoted again – there are other people who are willing to say it’s not a serious issue,” said Richard Perkins, one of Criscione’s NRC colleagues involved in exposing flooding concerns.

One case in point is the emergency safety valve issue at Exelon’s Byron and Braidwood plants……..

Underscoring that frustration is the NRC’s record of handling whistleblower complaints lodged by plant employees. From 2010 through 2016, workers filed 687 complaints. The NRC investigated just 235 and upheld none.

The largest number of complaints, 84, were filed by employees at the two nuclear plants operated in Georgia by Southern Nuclear, records show. Next were the 70 complaints lodged by nuclear workers in South Carolina, 58 by workers in Tennessee and 50 in California. Illinois ranked 12th, with 21 whistleblower cases filed. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/nuclear-regulatory-commission-downplays-safety-warnings-investigation-finds/

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December 22, 2017 - Posted by | civil liberties, safety, USA

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