United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

NRC Announces Enforcement Actions for Discrimination at Millstone Based on Independent Review


NRC Seal NRC NEWS

U. S. NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION

OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, REGION I

475 Allendale Road, King of Prussia, Pa. 19406

 

I-99-25
April 6, 1999

CONTACT: Diane Screnci (610)337-5330/ e-mail: dps@nrc.gov
Neil A. Sheehan (610)337-5331/e-mail: nas@nrc.gov

 

NRC ANNOUNCES ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS FOR DISCRIMINATION AT MILLSTONE BASED ON INDEPENDENT REVIEW

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has taken enforcement actions against Northeast Nuclear Energy Company, the operator of the Millstone nuclear power plants at Waterford, Conn., and a former company vice president, for discrimination against three employees who raised safety concerns. In addition, the Commission has issued letters of reprimand to four other Northeast managers involved in the discrimination.

The Commission's actions were based on the results of NRC investigations and on the conclusions and recommendations of an independent review team which was appointed in January following questions by the NRC Office of the Inspector General about the staff's handling of employee dismissals at Northeast.

The Millstone Independent Review Team, after reviewing the investigative record for several weeks, concluded that there was adequate evidence to find that Northeast had discriminated against a total of three employees in 1993 and 1995 for raising safety concerns in two out of three cases that the team reviewed. The team did not find sufficient evidence of discrimination in the third case involving three dismissals in 1996.

NRC Region I Administrator Hubert J. Miller issued a Notice of Violation for three violations against the company. The Notice of Violation is intended to ensure that Northeast does not repeat discrimination against its employees for raising safety concerns and to warn other NRC licensees and their managers that retaliatory personnel actions are serious matters that will not be tolerated.

Under NRC enforcement policy, a civil penalty normally is considered for such significant violations. But cognizant of the company's subsequent comprehensive corrective actions in this area, the NRC exercised enforcement discretion and refrained from issuing a civil penalty. The NRC recently lifted an order imposed in October 1996 which required Northeast to have an independent third party oversee its employee concerns program to protect against discrimination, harassment, and intimidation. The Commission lifted the order because it felt Northeast had taken substantial and sufficient action to correct widespread employee concerns and discrimination problems.

The NRC also issued a Notice of Violation against a Northeast vice president who has since left the company. At the time of the incidents he was the most senior official involved in discriminating against employees for raising safety concerns. Letters of reprimand also were issued to four other company managers involved in the cases. The letters emphasize that retaliatory personnel actions are considered very serious matters which will not be tolerated by the NRC. The names of the individuals who received letters of reprimand are being withheld pending an opportunity to respond. The NRC intends to make the names, the letters of reprimand, and any responses available to the public after May 17.

The Commission directed the NRC staff to take these enforcement actions after reviewing the conclusions and recommendations of the Millstone Independent Review Team. The team was headed by Acting Chief Administrative Judge G. Paul Bollwerk of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board Panel, which reports directly to the Commission. Judge Bollwerk was assisted by two NRC attorneys, one from the Office of the General Counsel and the other from NRC Region II. The team was advised by a former Chairman of the NRC Atomic Safety and Licensing Appeal Panel and of the General Accounting Office Personnel Appeals Board and by a Senior Supervisory Investigator from the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. None of the reviewers had any previous involvement with the Millstone cases. The team conducted its review in February and early March.

In addition to specific recommendations on the three cases, the team recommended certain improvements in NRC's investigative and enforcement processes.

Based on its review of the team's report, the Commission directed the NRC staff to implement specific improvements that largely embrace the team's six recommendations, including communication of investigator impressions of witness credibility and overall investigative conclusions to agency decision-makers on enforcement actions, as well as adoption of a more structured and systematic approach for the enforcement process.

The team acknowledged that reasonable people can differ about cases involving circumstantial evidence, and did not criticize the NRC staff's handling of them. Indeed, the former Chairman of the Appeals Boards of both NRC and GAO advising the team commented that, in nearly forty years of federal service reviewing innumerable investigation reports, he had not encountered any reports that exceeded the quality of the investigative records developed in the three cases. The Commission emphasized that its actions should not be viewed as criticism of the previous conclusions reached by the NRC staff in these cases.

The main body of the Millstone Independent Review Team's report, the memo providing the Commission's response to its six recommendations, and other related documents are available on the agency's Internet web page at: www.nrc.gov/OPA/reports/ms.htm The NRC intends to release the appendices of the team report upon completion of the associated enforcement actions.

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