Dozing guards gone from Wackenhut

Five of six guards who admitted dozing on duty at Turkey Point nuclear power plant have not worked for Wackenhut Nuclear Services for a year or more and the sixth remains on suspension, the security firm said Wednesday.

Marc Shapiro, a senior vice president at Palm Beach Gardens-based Wackenhut, said the company had not had time to gather details about a Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation that found guards sleeping on the job on a number of occasions from 2004 to 2006.

But Shapiro echoed Florida Power & Light and the NRC in defending Turkey Point's safety. The sprawling plant along Biscayne Bay in deep South Miami-Dade boasts multiple layers of security -- including heavily armed Wackenhut guards, concrete barriers, motion detectors and other measures that companies and agencies will not discuss.

''Both the NRC and FPL have emphasized that the security was never compromised at Turkey Point,'' he said. ``If these allegations are true, we certainly want to know and we want to validate the information.''

Shapiro said the company already had taken ''corrective measures'' to deal with what the NRC called ''willfully inattentive'' guards. Those steps were ordered, he said, because of similar incidents recently reported at a handful of other plants around the country that also employ Wackenhut guards.

''It's not a particularly new matter,'' Shapiro said.


In a case that got national attention earlier this year, an anonymous whistle-blowing guard videotaped a dozen fellow Wackenhut officers snoozing on the job at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant in Pennsylvania, a tape later aired on television. The plant's owner, Exelon Corp., formed its own security force and formally ended its contract with Wackenhut on Wednesday.

April Schilpp, FPL's senior manager for nuclear communications, said Tuesday that the company planned to take a close look at its relationship with Wackenhut.

The security firm, one of the nation's largest, provides guards for FPL's nuclear plants at Turkey Point and in St. Lucie County, nearly half the nation's 64 nuclear power facilities and a number of military facilities.

Shapiro said it would be inappropriate to discuss any business discussions with FPL.

''I can tell you that Wackenhut is proud of its service to FPL,'' he said. ``We have delivered an extremely high-quality product and we stand by our record.''

Both FPL plants have reported security incidents in recent years.

The most serious: In March, tests on a Turkey Point reactor that was shut down for refueling revealed a small hole that had been mysteriously drilled in a cooling system. The FBI, which interviewed hundreds of FPL and contractor workers, has not yet named a suspect.

Last year, a former Wackenhut security guard was charged with stealing a semiautomatic rifle and a thermal sight from FPL's St. Lucie plant. In April 2004, FPL also barred six guards there after an audit found they took shortcuts during fire inspections.

The NRC, which oversees the nation's nuclear power sites, sent FPL and Wackenhut letters Tuesday notifying them of the ''apparent violations'' uncovered at Turkey Point during an investigation that ran from March to December 2006.

Under NRC rules, the companies have 30 days to contest findings, explain corrective steps or ask for outside mediation. Companies also can face fines if violations are upheld.


The NRC, citing security concerns, did not provide details or a specific number of incidents, but said the problems involved multiple unnamed guards who were ''willfully inattentive to duty [sleeping] at times'' from 2004 to 2006.

Investigators said five officers admitted to sleeping on separate occasions, and one was observed by other guards sleeping several times. Two others admitted to serving as lookouts at least once for fellow guards. One officer in a ''vital area'' also was caught ''inattentive'' on duty in April 2006 by an NRC inspector.

Shapiro said three of the guards left the company three years ago, and two others more than a year ago. The last is under suspension. He said he did not know any details behind their departures or the suspension.

He said the company was still gathering facts on isolated incidents that happened as long as several years ago.

''We were just presented with this information,'' Shapiro said. ``The NRC did not advise us this investigation was taking place.''

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