NRC Reviews Allegations in Texas After Markey Seeks Probe

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is reviewing allegations of retaliation against agency staff who raised safety concerns about a Nebraska power plant, which prompted a U.S. lawmaker to demand an investigation.

Representative Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, asked the agency for information after receiving a letter from NRC staff in Arlington, Texas, who said the work environment under a deputy director discouraged enforcement actions.

NRC “is reviewing the issues” raised by Markey, Scott Burnell, a spokesman for the agency, said today in an e-mail.

Employees on NRC’s Texas staff, writing anonymously, said Troy Pruett, deputy director of the Division of Reactor Projects and former deputy director of the Division of Reactor Safety, rejected a recommendation to classify failures at Nebraska’s Fort Calhoun Station as “high safety significance,” saying his job would become more difficult, according to the April 24 letter released by Markey.

Pruett didn’t return a telephone call today to his office line.

“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,” Markey said yesterday in an e-mail. “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.”

Markey said the issue calls for an independent investigation, and “all necessary actions” to resolve the matter if the allegations prove true, he said.

The agency inspected Fort Calhoun, about 19 miles (31 kilometers) north of Omaha, after a June 2011 electrical breaker fire triggered a shutdown in the system that cools spent-fuel pools, according to an April 10 NRC statement. The plant was shut at the time by flooding along the Missouri River.

Omaha Public Power District runs the plant.

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