Markey Calls for Independent Investigation of Possible Retaliation Against NRC Safety Staff
From Rep. Markey:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today released a letter from the staff of Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) Region IV (which is based in Arlington, TX) that alleges retaliation by an NRC manager against staff members for calling attention to safety concerns with management. In releasing the letter, Rep. Markey also called upon the NRC to initiate an independent and public investigation of the allegations. In addition, Rep. Markey asked for more information on what appears to be a system of reward for senior management who don’t undertake rigorous nuclear safety oversight in the region.
Allegations by NRC staff against the Deputy Division Director of the Division of Reactor Projects include alteration of safety findings in inspection reports, intimidation of staff for raising safety issues, downgrading performance appraisals for staff who identified violations, and attempting to interfere with safety findings at the Fort Calhoun Station in Nebraska. Yet despite complaints about the individual to more senior NRC personnel, no steps have been taken to remedy the situation.
“Too often those who report serious safety violations end up risking their jobs, and unfortunately in this case, possibly the well-being of Americans living near nuclear power plants,” said Rep. Markey, senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee and a strong advocate for increased nuclear safety. “If these allegations prove to be true, it will be an appalling indictment of a culture of open disregard for safety recommendations of NRC’s technical staff and a disempowerment of staff to come forward when safety issues arise. NRC needs to immediately engage an independent investigation of this situation and ensure that remedies are being implemented if these allegations are proven true.”
In the letter to Chairman Greg Jaczko, Rep. Markey requests documents relating to the allegations raised by the NRC staffers and also wrote, “I have long been concerned by the Commission’s voting record on safety matters, especially on the post-Fukushima measures recommended by NRC’s technical staff” noting the frequency with which the Chairman is outvoted on safety measures. “I have been concerned for the last several months that if NRC managers do not believe the Commission is committed to following the safety recommendations of its top technical staff, they may similarly feel empowered to reject the recommendations made by their inspectors, dismiss safety concerns, and retaliate against those who are making then,” wrote Rep. Markey.
A copy of Rep. Markey’s letter to the NRC can be found HERE. A copy of the letter from staff of Region IV to Rep. Markey can be found HERE.
This is not the first time Rep. Markey has been made aware of concerns related to whistleblower retaliation in NRC’s Region IV office. In 2001, Rep. Markey wrote the first of several letters to the NRC about Mr. Ron Bath, an NRC contract employee who had been terminated by a Region IV NRC employee after he made reports of illegal activities on the part of other Region IV employees. Although those employees were eventually found guilty of the alleged activities, and Mr. Bath was found to have been retaliated against, NRC refused to remedy the situation because the whistleblower laws in effect at the time did not cover NRC contractors. In 2003, Rep. Markey, along with Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) and then-Rep. Billy Tauzin (D-La.), wrote language ensuring that this statutory loophole was closed as part of that year’s energy bill. The language was enacted into law in 2005.