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Structural Issues- Workers Problems

Fitness for Duty- Mental Stability

1997, shoot-out: Carl Drega gunned down and killed two New Hampshire state troopers who had stopped him on a routine traffic citation, drove one of the trooper's cars into town to kill a judge and a newspaper editor, set fire to his own house, and drove away to engage in a gun battle with four other policemen. He was killed, and authorities later discovered bomb materials on his property. The report did not say whether there were nuclear components to those bombs. 

The AP reported (Who is minding the store? by Dorrie Weiss) that three nuclear power plants had previously hired Carl - Pilgrim, Vermont Yankee and Indian Point. According to the AP report, "Staff at each of the plants conducted the background security checks required of anyone who works at a U.S. nuclear power facility and none turned up anything that would have alerted officials, the NRC said. Drega had worked at each of [the power plants] as a contractor on maintenance projects."

April 2009, suicide: The Commonwealth of Massachusetts State Fire Marshal recently issued a report about the cause of the house explosion that killed a PNPS worker.  It has been determined that the PNPS worker caused the explosion in an act of suicide.  This tragic event should raise questions by the NRC regarding personnel issues, such as:  Were his work and the work environment at PNPS stressful?  If so, how much did it contribute to his mental state? Did any co-workers notice any problems with him, if so, did they report it and was Entergy’s response timely and appropriate?  Is this indicative of overall worker morale problems? 

We are sorry anyone took their life but glad he didn’t plan his cremation at the reactor; further if there are lessons learned regarding morale problems at the Pilgrim than something good could result. We suspect this may not be an isolated event because of the high turnover rate of operators at Pilgrim – this, in itself, deserves NRC’s attention.

March 2009, Worker charged with gross lewdness-Alcoholism:  The Patriot Ledger reported that a Plymouth District Court Judge charged a former Pilgrim Nuclear Power Plant worker John Detwiler with exposing himself to a coworker in September 2007, when he was employed at Pilgrim. He refused to cooperate with an internal investigation and was fired. The victim said Detwiler had done the same thing a few years earlier and two other women reported similar incidents.  The article failed to report if there an internal investigation at that time and whether the other incidents occurred at Pilgrim. The Judge ordered Detwiler to remain in Alcoholics Anonymous. The article failed to report whether he had been an alcoholic while employed at Pilgrim.


Fitness for Duty- Drugs

NRC Event Report January 17, 2001 FITNESS FOR DUTY REPORT- A contract manager tested positive for illegal drug use

NRC Event Report March 2001 FITNESS FOR DUTY REPORT INVOLVING A SUPERVISOR - A non-licensed supervisor was determined to be under the influence of alcohol during a random test.


Fitness for Duty- Asleep on the Job - Fatigue

February 2007: Pilgrim owners reprimanded for worker who slept on the job. The Boston Globe reported that, “Federal regulators have reprimanded the owners of the Pilgrim nuclear power plant for an incident more than a year ago in which a chemistry technician went to sleep on duty. The lapse was deemed a low-level violation of safety operating regulations.

The night-shift technician locked himself in a storeroom and lay down on a mat in December 2005 before being discovered by another employee. Entergy Corp., which owns the plant, reported the incident to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission , and the regulatory agency last week issued a notice of violation. No fine was attached. The NRC… said the sleeping incident posed no safety risk because the chemistry technician's duties do not require continuous observation and backup systems were in place, including a cellphone alert in the event of an emergency and a system for calling in backup staff.”

July 2005: An earlier incident of an employee sleeping on duty, in July 2005, resulted in a $60,000 fine against the plant's owners. In that case, a control room supervisor was found asleep. That was a more serious breach of procedure given the nature of his job, and because the shift manager failed to follow procedures and immediately relieve the supervisor of duty, according to the NRC.

February 2007, Reduction in Workforce: The Boston Globe reported on February 22, 2007 regarding a decision by the NRC staff. “ At issue is the plant's move to reduce the number of radiation protection technicians on evening and night shifts from two to one . The union, which represents 335 plant workers, called on the NRC to block the change, saying it might put workers and the public at risk in the event of a radiation leak. The NRC staff reviewed the case and then rejected the union's appeal. Pilgrim's related plan to train chemistry technicians to back up radiation technicians is an "enhancement" of the plant's emergency response, the NRC said. Industry critics say both NRC actions-- the staffing change approval and the light reprimand for the latest sleeping-on-duty violation -- illustrate regulators' leniency toward the industry. Mary Lampert of the citizens group Pilgrim Watch said the staffing and retraining changes raise safety concerns. "Do you believe that giving the chemistry technician more responsibility for public safety will keep him awake while on the job?" Lampert asked in an e-mail. "Or is this the way NRC rewards bad behavior?"Dave Leonardi , the union representative for Utility Workers Union of America Local 369 , warned that a backup technician would not be as quick to carry out radiation protection functions and make decisions in the event of a radiation leak.


Safety is compromised by both the reduction in the workforce, leading to fatigue and overall morale problems; and an aging workforce, posing the question of who will mind the shop?