CCAM NEWS 2006 Part 2

Connecticut Coalition Against the Millstone Nuclear Power Reactor

Millstoned: A whistleblower faces the nuclear option.
New Haven Advocate March 9, 2006
HUGH ELTON ILLUSTRATION
CRAIG GILBERT PHOTO
Birds do it. The wind does it. Terrorists could do it too, and we might not know until it's too late.
Wind and birds abound at the shorefront Millstone nuclear power plant in Waterford. So do false security alarms, according to whistleblower Sham Mehta, whose job was fielding employee complaints there. He says wind and birds trigger the motion sensors and other security systems at the Millstone plant, "in some cases many thousands of alarms a day"so the guards simply shut the system off and rely on human patrols to guard the facility.
In a Dec. 20, 2005, whistleblower complaint to the state's Department of Utility Control, Mehta claims that he alerted his bosses at Millstone to the security lapse in 2004. Instead of fixing the problem, Millstone fixed Mehtaby harassing him for months, then eliminating his job, he says.
After an initial investigation, DPUC lawyers found "sufficient grounds" to dig deeper. They recommended on Feb. 1 that the department investigate further and, in the meantime, order Millstone owner Dominion Nuclear Connecticut to reinstate Mehta. At the end of last week, however, Mehta remained in limbo: on paid leave but essentially jobless.
Support for him was growing: State attorney general Richard Blumenthal met with Mehta and deemed him a genuine whistleblower who had been retaliated against, regardless of whether he's right about the security lapses. U.S. representatives Chris Shays and Rob Simmons and Sen. Chris Dodd all said they will look into the matter or push for a full investigation.
Dominion has not publicly addressed the security concerns, simply saying it has looked into Mehta's allegations and found them without merit.
Whistleblower complaints are nothing new at Millstone. Ten years ago the plant made national news when ex-employees claimed they'd been fired for raising safety concerns. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission fined then-owner Northeast Utilities a record $2.1 million for safety violations.
Carole Bass


Nuclear Meltdown at Millstone: Death and Doom

A nuclear meltdown at Millstone Unit 3 would cause 23,000 deaths and 38,000 cancers in the short-term aftermath, according to a study commissioned by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 1982, based on 1982 population. In 1982 dollars, $417 billion in property damage would result. These calculations are extremely conservative because they do not account for the potential spread of the conflagration to the spent fuel pools and Unit 2 reactor. The entire Northeast could be rendered uninhabitable for decades or much, much longer.
You can get a copy of the report from the Nuclear Information Resource Service, www.nirs.org.


Fallout from Bush Nuclear Mischief in India
By REUTERS
Published: March 14, 2006NEW DELHI (Reuters)

India will receive uranium
from Russia to run two atomic power plants that
have struggled to find fuel after the United
States stopped supplies more than three decades
ago, the Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.
Moscow's decision to supply fuel to India's
Tarapur nuclear power plants came nearly two weeks
after New Delhi and Washington sealed a landmark
deal which aims to give India access to atomic
equipment and fuel from the United States, and
eventually from other nuclear nations.
Russia, a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group
(NSG) -- an informal club of nations that control
global nuclear trade -- cannot supply fuel to
countries like India which have not signed the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
But Moscow would send the shipment under an NSG
``Safety Exception Clause'' which allows fuel
transfers if there is reason to believe that
starving a reactor of fuel could result in a
nuclear hazard, Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman
Navtej Sarna said.
``At India's request, Russia has agreed to supply
a limited amount of uranium fuel for the
safeguarded units 1 and 2 of the Tarapur atomic
power station,'' Sarna told a news conference.
``The shortage of fuel for Tarapur would have
affected its continued operations under reliable
and safe conditions,'' Sarna said, adding that
Russia had informed the NSG about the move.
Five years ago, the United States strongly opposed
a similar move by Russia.
But now that Washington has agreed to abandon
long-time prohibitions on nuclear transfers to
India, ``we think that deals to supply that fuel
should move forward on the basis of the joint
initiative, on the basis of steps that India will
take, but has not yet taken,'' State Department
deputy spokesman Adam Ereli told reporters.
Democratic Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts
said the Russian fuel arrangement showed other
nations are rushing to cut their own special deals
with India and the benefits of the U.S.-India
nuclear agreement to America are ``illusory.''
``If Russia goes forth with the sale of nuclear
material to India without consensus from the NSG,
this will begin a new era in which the rules that
governed nuclear trade for decades are gradually
swept away,'' said Markey, co-chairman of the
congressional bipartisan task force on
non-proliferation.
The Tarapur plants were built by U.S. firm General
Electric in the 1960s but Washington stopped fuel
supplies after New Delhi conducted its first
nuclear tests in 1974.
The two plants received fuel intermittently from
France and Russia and the last supplies were made
by Moscow in 2001, provoking American protests.
Russia's latest decision coincides with a trip to
New Delhi by Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov later
this week.
The two countries were likely to sign a deal
during the visit under which Russia would supply
India with 60 tons of uranium, the Press Trust of
India news agency reported, quoting Indian
sources.
The India-U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation deal
aims to reverse three decades of global curbs on
supplying atomic equipment and fuel to India, a
nuclear weapons state.
But the deal needs to be approved by a skeptical
U.S. Congress and backed by the NSG before India
can get access to foreign nuclear technology and
fuel.


Chernobyl: A poisonous legacy
Twenty years after a blast in the nuclear plant at Chernobyl spread radioactive debris across Europe, it has been revealed that 375 farms in Britain, with 200,000 sheep, are still contaminated by fallout
By Andy McSmith
Published: 14 March 2006
After two decades, the legacy of the Chernobyl disaster is still casting its poisonous shadow over Britain's countryside. The Department of Health has admitted that more than 200,000 sheep are grazing on land contaminated by fallout from the explosion at the Ukrainian nuclear plant 1,500 miles away. Emergency orders still apply to 355 Welsh farms, 11 in Scotland and nine in England as a result of the catastrophe in April 1986.
The revelation - in a Commons written answer to the Labour MP Gordon Prentice - comes as Mr Blair prepares to make the case for nuclear power in a forthcoming government Energy Review. The Prime Minister argues that nuclear energy would allow the UK to achieve twin objectives of cutting C02 emissions and reducing dependency on imported natural gas supplies.
But, just last week a damning report from the Government's own advisory board on sustainable development identified five major disadvantages to any planned renewal of Britain's nuclear power programme, including the threat of terrorist attack and the danger of radiation exposure. The longevity of the "Chernobyl effect" in a region generation of nuclear power stations, and going through a consultation exercise to try to convince the public that this is a safe form of electricity generation, we shouldn't overlook the terrible consequences if something does go wrong,
"No one would now build a reactor as unsafe as those at Chernobyl, which were jerry built. Even so, I think a lot of people will be shocked to know that, as we approach the 20th anniversary of Chernobyl, hundreds of farming families are still living with the fallout."
Jean McSorley, Greenpeace's senior adviser on nuclear energy said: "Chernobyl was the worst nuclear accident the world has ever seen but it is by no means the worst that could happen. In Cumbria, where I come from, people who are old enough to remember still talk about it. It's quite moving to hear the stress that farming families were put through. I think the British public that all this distance from Chernobyl, 20 years later, so many families are still living with its impact day to day."
The Chernobyl disaster turned public opinion in Britain against civil nuclear power overnight. The land still poisoned by Chernobyl's radioactivity lies all along the Welsh hills between Bangor and Bala, much of it in the Snowdonia National park. There is also a large triangle of contaminated land in Cumbria, south of Buttermere - though the number of farms affected is smaller than in Wales.
Some of the Scottish hills are also still affected. No sheep can be moved out of any of these areas without a special licence, under Emergency Orders imposed in 1986. Sheep that have higher than the permitted level of radiation have to be marked with a special dye that does not wash off in the rain, and have to spend months grazing on uncontaminated grass before they are passed as fit to go into the food chain.
A National Farmers' Union spokesman said: "The paramount concern has to be the safety of the consumer, and consumer confidence in the meat supply, so exceptional care has to be taken to make sure no contaminated meat goes into the food chain."
Most of Britain's nuclear power stations have either ceased to produce electricity, or are nearing the end of their active life. The last is due for closure in 2035. The Government is now conducting an energy review, to be published in June, which is expected to announce a new nuclear programme.
Tony Blair signalled his support for the industry in a speech to Labour's conference last autumn, when he warned Britain is too reliant on "unstable" regimes for its energy supplies, and singled out nuclear power as an alternative.
But resistance to the idea has been growing, particularly with the publication last week of the report by the government's Sustainable Development Commission. The Commons Environmental Audit Committee will also report later this month. According to a committee member, their findings are expected to be "measured" but "certainly won't put a strong case for nuclear power".
On 23 March, leading specialists will hold a conference in London on the long term impact of Chernobyl. At the end of the month, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority will issue a revised figure for the cost of cleaning up the sites of disused publicly owned nuclear plants.
Their figure is expected to be substantially higher than their original estimate which was published last year, of £56bn.
David Ellwood, 49, farmer: 'Nobody can tell us when the radiation will pass'
By Geneviéve Roberts
David Ellwood has 700 sheep on his farm in Ulpha, near Broughton-in-Furness. His wife, Heather, 50, helps out on Baskell Farm, and they have four children.
"I remember the Chernobyl disaster 20 years ago. We were lambing in April and it was raining like hell. We got a letter from the ministry suggesting it would last about three weeks, but they were only guessing - it could go on for another 20 years.
"Every time we take sheep to auction, we must phone Defra, who check they are clear from contamination [from radioactive caesium]. They give us £1.30 for every sheep they monitor. We take them off the fell and put them in the fields for a couple of weeks before selling them, so readings are usually low. But the odd one gets a high reading if it comes straight in off the fell, and has to be slaughtered.
"Defra are here four or five times a year which is a hassle. At shearing time in July they monitor everything. If we are taking Cheviots to auction, we have to get them into a pen to take readings, which makes them mucky and bad for selling. Now we try to get them monitored three or four days before," said Mr Ellwood, 49. "We have been on this farm for 16 years, and owned the ground surrounding it before that, so have always been affected by Chernobyl. There is a lot of contaminated peat on our fell, so when the grass comes up in the summer that gets contaminated too. If our fell were rocky, I don't think it would be such a problem.
"I could get angry, but it is pointless, there is not a damn thing we can do and nobody seems to know when it will pass. I would be worried if more power stations were built. We were 1,500 miles from Chernobyl and still feel the effects."
Edwin Noble, 45, sheep farmer: 'I had no idea it could affect us so far away'
Edwin Noble and his family, who run a 2,500- acre farm close to Mount Snowden, live under emergency restrictions that they were told would apply for 30 days, but which are likely to continue for years.
Mr Noble, 45, was in his early twenties when he took charge of the family farm. On the night of 2 May 1986, he was disturbed by torrential rain and feared the river would burst its banks. What he did not know was that the radiation cloud from Chernobyl was passing invisibly overhead. The rain left huge deposits of radioceasium in the peaty soil, which is no direct threat to humans but works itself into the grass, contaminating his sheep.
"I had heard about Chernobyl on the news, but had no idea at all that [it] could affect us so far away," he said. "It's something we have had to live with ever since.
"Every time we move a sheep or lamb off our land it has got to be scanned. If it fails the monitoring, it ... cannot be sold. If you can get the sheep or lamb off the contaminated land, then the radiation comes out of them fairly quickly, but the whole of our farm is affected, so we rent grazing land 20 miles away. It means you constantly have to think ahead. If the lamb is fattened and ready to go to market, you can't have it sitting in a pen waiting to be monitored because it loses weight, so you've got to get the monitoring done ahead of time. When the market is volatile, it has cost us a sale.
"The experience has made me very opposed to nuclear power. It's not so much the inconvenience for farmers like us - but what if the explosion had been at the plant near here, at Trawfynydd? It doesn't seem worth the risk," he said.

Sellafield UK: Hell's Brew Brewing

Nuclear waste: Bury it and forget? Mon Mar 13, 2006 8:07 AM ETBy Jeremy Lovell Reuters
SELLAFIELD, England - It is the regular beeping that grates. But if it stops, prepare to be scared.
The signal audible every second in every corridor of the high-level toxic nuclear waste plant on Britain's sprawling Sellafield site is a sign all the alarms are working. If it stops, or changes tone, something has gone very wrong.
"The people who work here every day tell me they get used to it. But it tends to get on the nerves of everyone who visits the plant," Sellafield information officer Ben Chilton told Reuters on a tour of the site 300 miles northwest of London.
The alarms are crucial for an industry that believes it could be granted a new lease of life as the world searches for an alternative to fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, that produce carbon emissions, blamed for global warming.
The nuclear industry says its technology emits no carbon and does not cause global warming but for many, still wary after disasters like the 1986 explosion at Chernobyl, the lingering fear is that the toxic waste might leak and kill.
Sellafield, and a plant at La Hague in northern France, can each reprocess 5,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel each year, accounting for roughly a third of annual global output.
But there will be more waste. China plans to build 30 new nuclear reactors by 2020, India has struck a deal with the United States to build several more plants, the United States is lining up tax incentives for new generators and Britain is considering new plants to plug a looming energy gap.
HELL'S BREW
The sludge that flows down the heavily armored pipe into Sellafield's vitrification plant after plutonium and uranium have been taken from spent fuel rods for reuse is a hell's brew still emitting 40 times a lethal dose of radiation.
In shielded chambers with technicians watching through yard-thick leaded glass windows and using remote mechanical arms, the toxic stew is cooked down to a powder, combined with molten glass and poured into stainless steel urns.
These are cooled, closed and scrubbed before being sealed in insulated steel flasks and taken away for storage where, standing 10 deep in a concrete core and capped by a 10-footplug, the heat from the radiation is still tangible.
There are nearly 4,000 of these containers stored at Sellafield, which was the world's first commercial nuclear power plant when it opened in 1956, with room for 4,000 more.
Final disposal of the waste involves burying it in geologically stable formations. The half-life of plutonium is 24,000 years -- in other words, it would take up to 250,000 years before it degrades completely.
Chilton said waste comes from Britain, which has 11 nuclear plants, and from countries as far away as Japan, the third biggest nuclear power user after the United States and France.
Sellafield's scientists are confident they have the answers on waste and believe nuclear power can help ease climate change.
"From a technical point of view we can deal with any waste that comes from nuclear plants," said Graham Fairhall of Nexiasolutions, the research arm of the British Nuclear Group.
But for the green lobby, nuclear waste is an unacceptable legacy, whatever the benefits of nuclear power.
"Nuclear power is dirty, dangerous and expensive," said Tony Juniper of Friends of the Earth. "We are only talking seriously about nuclear power again because of climate change. But it is not the answer."
Environmentalists say the costs of nuclear energy are not clear because of government subsidies and the toxic waste.
The latest estimate on the cost of cleaning up the waste from the last 50 years is 56 billion pounds ($97 billion), Juniper said.
"There may be technical solutions to dealing with the waste that will be generated, but note that they are still trying to deal with the waste they have already created," he told Reuters.
The British government, which has covered the costs so far, says finance for new reactors must come from the private sector.
An energy review in Britain, which faces a 20 percent power shortfall within a decade as aging nuclear and coal-powered plants shut down, is due to be ready by the middle of the year.
LETHAL LEGACY
It is not just the high-level waste from fuel rods that has to be dealt with. Intermediate-level waste such as the casings of nuclear fuel rods, and low-level waste such as that produced in hospitals also has to be processed and stored.
Intermediate waste is chopped up and put in steel barrels that are filled with concrete and stored, while low-level waste is put in steel boxes that are crushed and put in a container, which is then filled with concrete and buried.
Industry experts say high, intermediate or low-level waste does not pose a security risk as one would need industrial-style resources -- like protective gear and surroundings -- to even approach the high-level waste, and the other two forms are either non-retrievable or non-lethal.
Public opinion in Britain is gradually swinging toward accepting nuclear energy to help combat climate change -- 54 percent were in favor according to a poll this year -- despite worries about the waste and security.
But while the nuclear industry says a Chernobyl-scale disaster could not happen here because the technology is different, some of the legacy problems remain a major headache.
At Sellafield, 49 years after a fire forced the closure of the Windscale I military reactor, scientists are still trying to work out how to dismantle the chimney-top filter that trapped the radioactive smoke and stopped a nuclear catastrophe.


SENATOR CLINTON WINS NRC COMMITMENT TO CONDUCT AN IN-DEPTH REVIEW OF INDIAN POINT

Details of Review to be Provided In a NRC Letter to Senator ClintonWashington, DC – At a hearing of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee today, Senator Clinton secured a commitment from U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Chairman Nils Diaz to conduct an independent safety review of the Indian Point power plant. Senator Clinton received the commitment after telling NRC Chairman Diaz that she supports legislation offered by Representatives Hinchey, Kelly, Lowey and Engel to require what is known as an “Independent Safety Assessment” at Indian Point.“I am very pleased that the NRC made a commitment to me earlier today to conduct a thorough, independent review of Indian Point,” said Senator Clinton. “NRC Chairman Diaz will be following up with a letter to me detailing that commitment, and as I explained to the Chairman, I expect that it will incorporate the elements included in the legislation introduced by my House colleagues.”At the hearing, the Senator explained her support for an independent review:
"As I have indicated, public confidence in the plant has been steadily eroded by a series of mishaps at the plant. And so, when the NRC completes its normal review processes, as happened recently, and gives the plant a clean bill of health, it doesn’t inspire public confidence,” Senator Clinton said.
“I think the NRC ought to conduct such an assessment. I, for one, would not prejudge the outcome. But going through the process can only increase public confidence if the plant is being run well, as the NRC says, and the plant therefore holds up to this extremely high level of scrutiny.”
After Chairman Diaz agreed to the Senator’s request for an independent safety review, Senator Clinton asked for his promise in writing: “I greatly appreciate the commitment of the NRC to conduct a thorough, independent safety assessment, however, I just want to be assured that it is as thorough and comprehensive and independent as we possibly can make it,” Clinton said.
Earlier this week, Representatives Hinchey (D-NY), Lowey (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY), and Sue Kelly (R-NY) introduced legislation that would require the NRC to conduct an “Independent Safety Assessment” at Indian Point. The legislation would require a focused, in-depth assessment of the design, construction, maintenance, and operational safety performance of Indian Point. It also requires a comprehensive evaluation of the emergency evacuation plan for the nuclear power plant in the event of a terrorist attack or radiological accident. The details of the NRC review that Chairman Diaz announced today will be included in a letter that the NRC will send to Senator Clinton in the coming weeks. Senator Clinton reiterated her support for the legislation after the hearing.
"I am hopeful that today's commitment will make legislation unnecessary, but I will introduce Senate legislation if the NRC's letter does not fully address my concerns."
The Senator’s exchange with Chairman Diaz can be listened to at:
http://www.clinton.senate.gov/audio/clinton030906m.mp3 <http://www.clinton.senate.gov/audio/clinton030906m.mp3>


Western Shoshone Victorious at United Nations: U.S. Found in Violation of Human Rights of Native Americans - Urged to Take Immediate Action

10 March 2006, Geneva Switzerland. Today, in an historic and strongly worded decision by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) the United States was urged to “freeze”, “desist” and “stop” actions being taken or threatened to be taken against the Western Shoshone Peoples of the Western Shoshone Nation. In its decision, CERD stressed the “nature and urgency” of the Shoshone situation informing the U.S. that it goes “well beyond” the normal reporting process and warrants immediate attention under the Committee’s Early Warning and Urgent Action Procedure.

This monumental action challenges the US government’s assertion of federal ownership of nearly 90% of Western Shoshone lands. The land base covers approximately 60 million acres, stretching across what is now referred to as the states of Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. Western Shoshone rights to the land - which they continue to use, care for, and occupy today - were recognized by the United States in 1863 by the Treaty of Ruby Valley. The U.S. now claims these same lands as “public” or federal lands through an agency process and has denied Western Shoshone fair access to U.S. courts through that same process. The land base has been and continues to be used by the United States for military testing, open pit cyanide heap leach gold mining and nuclear waste disposal planning. The U.S. has engaged in military style seizures of Shoshone livestock, trespass fines in the millions of dollars and ongoing armed surveillance of Western Shoshone who continue to assert their original and treaty rights.

Based upon these actions and a dramatic escalation of new actions threatening irreparable harm to Western Shoshone and their environment, last year, with the support of the Univ. of Arizona Indigenous Law and Policy Program, the Western Shoshone filed a renewed legal action at the United Nations CERD. In addition to evidence of the United States’ conduct, the Western Shoshone delegation also delivered over 13,000 signatures from citizens across the United States of America supporting the Western Shoshone action to CERD. This petition was a result of a campaign organized by the rights-based development organization Oxfam America to demonstrate the widespread concern for the Western Shoshone peoples to the United Nations.

CERD rejected the U.S.’ argument that the situation was not “novel” and therefore should wait to be reviewed until the U.S. submits its Periodic Report – past due since 2003. The Committee informed the U.S. that “[a]lthough these are indeed long-standing issues…they warrant immediate and effective action… [and] should be dealt with as a matter of priority.” The United States was “urged to pay particular attention to the right to health and cultural rights of the Western Shoshone…which may be infringed upon by activities threatening their environment and/or disregarding the spiritual and cultural significance they give to their ancestral lands.”

CERD presented its decision to the Western Shoshone this morning. The decision details the U.S.’ actions against the Western Shoshone and calls upon the United States to immediately:
· Respect and protect the human rights of the Western Shoshone peoples;
· Initiate a dialogue with the representatives of the Western Shoshone peoples in order to find a solution acceptable to them, and which complies with their rights;
· Adopt the following measures until a final decision or settlement is reached on the status, use and occupation of Western Shoshone ancestral lands in accordance with due process of law and the U.S.’ obligations under the Convention;
o Freeze all efforts to privatize Western Shoshone ancestral lands for transfer to multinational extractive industries and energy developers;
o Desist from all activities planned and/or conducted on Western Shoshone ancestral lands;
o Stop imposing grazing fees, livestock impoundments, hunting, fishing and gathering restrictions and rescind all notices already made.

The decision is historic in that it is the first time a United Nations Committee has issued a full decision against the U.S. in respect to its highly controversial Federal Indian law and policy. The decision expressed particular concern that the U.S.’ basis for claiming federal title to Western Shoshone land rests on a theory of “gradual encroachment” through a “compensation” process in the Indian Claims Commission. The decision highlights that this same process was found by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to violate “international human rights norms, principles and standards that govern determination of indigenous property interests.” When the U.S. last appeared before the Committee in 2001, Committee members expressed alarm and concern that U.S. laws regarding indigenous peoples continue to be based on the outdated, colonial era “doctrine of discovery.”

The Committee gave the U.S. a July 15, 2006 deadline to provide it with information on the action it had taken. The decision issued today demonstrates a solid commitment by the United Nations human rights system to make the Western Shoshone’s struggle a priority. Whereas indigenous peoples have been active at the United Nations for several decades, the decision today also brings a breath of hope to indigenous communities across the U.S. and globally where the negative effects of U.S. policy and influence reach. In its decision, the Committee drew particular attention to its General recommendation 23 (1997) on the rights of indigenous peoples, in particular their right to own, develop, control and use their communal lands, territories and resources.


Comments from Western Shoshone Delegation to United Nations (March 10, 2006):

“We have rights to protect our homelands and stop the destruction of our land, water, and air by the abuses of the United States government and the multinational corporations. The situation is outrageous and we’re glad the United Nations Committee agrees with us. Our people have suffered more nuclear testing than anywhere else in the world and they’re continuing underground testing despite our protests. Yucca Mountain is being hollowed out in order to store nuclear waste. We cannot stand for it – this earth, the air, the water are sacred. People of all races must stop this insanity now in order to secure a safe future for all.” Joe Kennedy, Western Shoshone.

“The Western Shoshone Nation is very thankful to the Committee members for their decision affirming U.S. discrimination and destructive policies do not go on unaccounted for. Truth is what it is – that can never change. We pray for the healing of our peoples, the land and the harassment and destruction to stop. While others are allowed the freedom of religion, we are kept from the very same right. The Newe (people) use this ancestral land for sacred ceremonies. The federal agencies prevent our access to some of these important areas. Our ancestors’ burials are being dug up and placed into local museums’ basement storage areas because of surge of gold mines and nuclear developments. This is an outrage to our people!” Judy Rojo, Western Shoshone.

“This battle has been going on for quite some time, but we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the federal government and the companies’ rush to finalize what they consider a settlement in order to get a hold of our lands for activities that are contaminating our water and our air. Again, we are very pleased that our rights are finally being taken seriously and we look forward to positive actions being taken by the U.S.” Steven Brady, Western Shoshone.

“We are Shoshone delegates speaking for a Nation threatened by extinction. The mines are polluting our waters, destroying hot springs and exploding sacred mountains—our burials along with them--attempting to erase our signature on the land. We are coerced and threatened by mining and Federal agencies when we seek to continue spiritual prayers for traditional food or medicine on Shoshone land. We have endured murder of our Newe people for centuries, as chronicled in military records, but now we are asked to endure a more painful death from the U.S. governmental agencies —a separation from land and spiritual renewal. We thank our past leaders for their persistence and courage and the CERD for this monumental step” Bernice Lalo, Western Shoshone.


STATE OF CONNECTICUT
DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC UTILITY CONTROL

PETITION OF THE PROSECUTORIAL : DOCKET NO. 06-02-03
UNIT OF THE DPUC FOR :
CONSIDERATION OF WHISTLEBLOWER :
COMPLAINT AND REINSTATEMENT :
OF SHAM MEHTA BY DOMINION :
NUCLEAR CONNECTICUT : MARCH 8, 2006


PETITION OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
OF THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT
TO INTERVENE

Richard Blumenthal, Attorney General of the State of Connecticut, hereby applies to be designated an intervenor in the above-captioned proceeding. In support of this application, the Attorney General makes the following representations:
1. The Attorney General is a Constitutional Officer empowered to represent the interests of the people of the State of Connecticut and the State of Connecticut. Conn. Const., Amend. I; Conn. Gen. Stat. §3-125; Commissioner of Special Revenue v. Freedom of Information Commission, 174 Conn. 308, 318-19 (1978); Office of the Consumer Counsel v. Department of Public Utility Control, Yankee Gas Services Company, Superior Court, Judicial District of New Britain, Docket No. 02 0513718 (September 24, 2002).

2. On February 1, 2006, the Prosecutorial Unit of the Department of Public Utility Control (Department) submitted to the Department its recommendations regarding the Whistleblower Complaint of Sham Mehta pursuant to Conn. Gen. Stat. §16-89. The Prosecutorial Unit reported that Sham Mehta, an employee of Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, the operator of the Millstone nuclear power plant (“Millstone”), reported safety concerns regarding Millstone, that Dominion took an adverse employment against Mr. Mehta thereafter, and that Dominion failed to rebut the statutory presumption that it retaliated against Mr. Mehta for the protected activity of reporting his safety concerns. As a result, Prosecutorial recommended, and the DPUC agreed, to open a docket to consider this matter.
3. This proceeding will involve matters of the utmost concern to all Connecticut citizens regarding the safety and security of the Millstone Nuclear Power Plant and the treatment of whistleblowers by Millstone’s operator. Poor safety practices at other nuclear power plants, including Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, have created disastrous consequences. The threat of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant is now very clear and present. Robust and aggressive security is essential to protection of the public. Allegations that Millstone’s safety and security practices are flawed, or that Millstone is trying to suppress or ignore those allegations, must be fully and objectively investigated, in order to ensure protection of the public.
4. The Attorney General, therefore, requests the right to participate fully in this matter by filing interrogatories, receiving data and information filed by parties and other intervenors, cross-examining witnesses, filing briefs, and presenting oral arguments in this matter.
5. The Attorney General has designated Joseph Rubin, Associate Attorney General, Michael C. Wertheimer, Assistant Attorney General, and John S. Wright, Assistant Attorney General, to assist him in these proceedings. Assistant Attorneys General John G. Haines, Tatiana D. Eirmann and Robert L. Marconi have been designated counsel to advise the Department.
6. Materials in this docket should be sent to: Associate Attorney General, Joseph Rubin, Office of the Attorney General, 55 Elm Street, Hartford, CT 06106; and Assistant Attorney General Michael C. Wertheimer, Office of the Attorney General, 10 Franklin Square, New Britain, CT 06051.

Respectfully Submitted,

_______________________
RICHARD BLUMENTHAL
ATTORNEY GENERAL
STATE OF CONNECTICUT
P.O. Box 120
55 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06141-0120
Telephone: (860) 808-5318
Facsimile: (860) 808-5387

Service is certified to all
Parties and intervenors on this
Agency’s service list.

__________________________
Joseph Rubin
Associate Attorney General


Feds put Vermont Yankee uprate on hold due to excess vibration
By Kathryn Casa | Vermont Guardian Posted March 7, 2006 BRATTLEBORO

Federal regulators have frozen the Vermont Yankee power increase at 105 percent after a measurement on Saturday recorded vibrations that exceeded acceptable levels, the Vermont Guardian has learned.
“The data forwarded to us on Saturday for the ‘A’ main steam line exceeded one of the criteria levels. So, in accordance with the monitoring plan, a hold has been placed on further power increases while the data is evaluated,” Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Neil Sheehan told the Vermont Guardian in an e-mail late Monday.
The NRC last week issued approval to allow Vermont Yankee to increase power to 120 percent of its design capacity under close scrutiny because of concerns about the plant’s steam dryer, the component that removes water droplets from the steam before it feeds into the turbines.
The conditions require VY operators to increase power in increments of 5 percent and hold each increase for 96 hours after the vibration and stress measurements are sent to regulators.
“The NRC staff is independently evaluating the 105 percent data and will review the engineering evaluation [necessary for further power ascension] after it is completed by Entergy,” Sheehan said. “Our resident inspectors will continue to monitor Entergy's actions onsite.”
An inspection of the VY dryer in November revealed more than 40 hairline cracks. VY officials said the fissures were probably old, and were detected with sophisticated magnification equipment first used during the most recent refueling outage to check 20 cracks found in the dryer in 2004.
Although the steam dryer is considered a non-safety component, experts say breakage could compromise the reactor’s safety systems if, for example, a piece of the cracked dryer were to break off and lodge in a valve.
Cracks discovered late last year in the welded reinforcements of the Dresden II reactor’s steam dryer in Illinois, which is similar to Vermont Yankee, also raised concerns at the NRC about the stability of the devices.
Dresden II, a boiling water reactor like Vermont Yankee, was shut down for a refueling outage when inspectors discovered fissures in six triangular stainless steel gussets that had been welded onto the plant’s cracked steam dryer in an effort to reinforce it.
“To NRC’s credit they’re saying let’s take a look at this,” said Ray Shadis, technical advisor to the anti-nuclear group New England Coalition. “But what we anticipate is that they will once again sharpen their pencils, do some calculations and figure out that maybe they can run a little bit longer.”
Last week Shadis said he didn’t expect VY to exhibit problems at 105 percent because operators last year told the NRC that they had already run the plant above 100 percent.
“If they have excessive vibrations or strain at 105 percent and the executives from VY have already admitted that they routinely run flow rates in excess of 100 percent, I have some concern that they should permit the reactor to run at all,” Shadis added.
Vermont Yankee officials did not return phone calls at press time.
Defective computer part shuts Palo Verde reactor PHOENIX -Mar. 6, 2006 12:00 AM One of three reactors at the Palo Verde nuclear plant shut down Sunday morning due to a defective part in the unit's computer system.
Arizona Public Service crews expect to fix the malfunctioning part and restart Palo Verde Unit 3 over the next couple of days, barring further problems, spokesman Jim McDonald said.
The shutdown means the triple-reactor Palo Verde nuclear plant, the largest source of electricity for the Valley, is operating at less than half of full power. Unit 1 has been operating at 25 percent of capacity since mid-January due to a vibrating pipe.
APS estimates that Unit 1's reduced output has cost it $20 million to buy replacement electricity, an amount the utility will seek to recover from ratepayers.


Guards Say Homeland Security HQ Insecure
By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer Mon Mar 6, 3:53 AM ET WASHINGTON

The agency entrusted with protecting the U.S. homeland is having difficulty safeguarding its own headquarters, say private security guards at the complex.

The guards have taken their concerns to Congress, describing inadequate training, failed security tests and slow or confused reactions to bomb and biological threats.
For instance, when an envelope with suspicious powder was opened last fall at Homeland Security Department headquarters, guards said they watched in amazement as superiors carried it by the office of Secretary Michael Chertoff, took it outside and then shook it outside Chertoff's window without evacuating people nearby.
The scare, caused by white powder that proved to be harmless, "stands as one glaring example" of the agency's security problems, said Derrick Daniels, one of the first guards to respond to the incident.
"I had never previously been given training ... describing how to respond to a possible chemical attack," Daniels told The Associated Press. "I wouldn't feel safe nowhere on this compound as an officer."
Daniels was employed until last fall by Wackenhut Services Inc., the private security firm that guards Homeland's headquarters in a residential area of Washington. The company has been criticized previously for its work at nuclear facilities and transporting nuclear weapons.
Homeland Security officials say they have little control over Wackenhut's training of guards but plan to improve that with a new contract. The company defends its performance, saying the suspicious powder incident was overblown because the mail had already been irradiated.
Two senators who fielded complaints from several Wackenhut employees are asking Homeland's internal watchdog, the inspector general, to investigate.
"If the allegations brought forward by the whistleblowers are correct, they represent both a security threat and a waste of taxpayer dollars," Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota and Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote. "It would be ironic, to say the least, if DHS were unable to secure its own headquarters."
Daniels left Wackenhut and now works security for another company at another federal building. He is among 14 current and former Wackenhut employees — mostly guards — who were interviewed by The Associated Press or submitted written statements to Congress that were obtained by AP.
A litany of problems were listed by the guards, whose pay ranges from $15.60 to $23 an hour based on their position and level of security clearance. Among their examples of lax security:
_They have no training in responding to attacks with weapons of mass destruction;
_Chemical-sniffing dogs have been replaced with ineffective equipment that falsely indicates the presence of explosives.
_Vehicle entrances to Homeland Security's complex are lightly guarded;
_Guards with radios have trouble hearing each other, or have no radios, no batons and no pepper spray, leaving them with few options beyond lethal force with their handguns.
Wackenhut President Dave Foley disputed the allegations, saying officers have a minimum of one year's security experience, proper security clearances and training in vehicle screening, identification of personnel, handling of suspicious items and emergency response.
"In short, we believe our security personnel have been properly trained, have responded correctly to the various incidents that have occurred ... and that this facility is secure," he said. He declined, however, to address any of the current or former employees who have become whistleblowers.
Wackenhut is no stranger to criticism.
Over the last two years, the Energy Department inspector general concluded that Wackenhut guards had thwarted simulated terrorist attacks at a nuclear lab only after they were tipped off to the test; and that guards also had improperly handled the transport of nuclear and conventional weapons.
Homeland Security is based at a gated, former Navy campus in a college neighborhood — several miles from the heavily trafficked streets that house the FBI, Capitol, Treasury Department and White House.
Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle said Wackenhut guards are still operating under a contract signed with the Navy, and the agency has little control over their training. A soon-to-be-implemented replacement contract will impose new requirements on security guards, he said.
Daniels, the former guard who responded to the white powder incident, said the area where the powder was found wasn't evacuated for more than an hour. Available biohazard face shields went unused.
Doyle said the concerns were overblown because all mail going to the Homeland Security complex is irradiated to kill anthrax. He said "the incident was resolved before anything was moved."
Daniels said that after the envelope was taken outside, and the order finally given to evacuate the potentially infected area, employees had already gone to lunch and had to be rounded up and quarantined.
Former guard Bryan Adams recognized his inadequate training one day last August, when an employee reported a suspicious bag in the parking lot.
"I didn't have a clue about what to do," he said.
Adams said he closed the vehicle checkpoint with a cone, walked over to the bag and called superiors. Nobody cordoned off the area. Eventually, someone called a federal bomb squad, which arrived more than an hour after the discovery.
"If the bag had, in fact, contained the explosive device that was anticipated, the bomb could have detonated several times over in the hour that the bag sat there," Adams said.
The bag, it turned out, contained gym clothes.
Doyle, the Homeland spokesman, responded to several allegations raised by the guards. He said dogs were replaced because, "If you overuse them, their effectiveness drops." The detection equipment that substitutes for the dogs is a better method for detecting explosives, he said.
Guards who used the equipment said it was no match for the reliability of the dogs.
The Associated Press videotaped two vehicle entrances at Homeland headquarters with light security.
One is guarded only during morning and evening rush hours. Movable metal barriers and an unmanned security vehicle only partially blocked the driveway, leaving enough room for a small car or motorcycle to drive through.
Another entrance was guarded with a manned vehicle with two guards, but no other barriers.
Doyle said the vehicle entrances were adequate because in all cases, a 10-foot fence topped with barbed wire separates vehicles from all buildings.
Some guards who continue to work at Homeland, who would speak only on condition of anonymity because of fear of losing their jobs, said they knew of two instances in which individuals without identification got into the sensitive complex.
Another described how guards flunked a test by the Secret Service, which sent vehicles into the compound with dummy government identification tags hanging from inside mirrors. Guards cleared such vehicles through on two occasions, this guard said, and one officer even copied down the false information without realizing it was supposed to match information on the employee's government badge.
Doyle, the agency spokesman, said such tests are conducted routinely and "I can assure you that if people fail the test they are let go."
Marixa Farrar, a former guard, said two guards always should have been stationed inside the main building where Chertoff had his office, but she often was on duty alone.
One day last fall a fire alarm rang. As employees walked by Farrar, they asked if this was a fire or a test.
"There were no radios, so I couldn't figure out if it was a serious alarm," she said.
There was no fire.


Greens Protest Nuke Waste Plans in Ukraine

Fri Mar 3, 6:15 AM ET
Demonstrators wearing gas masks and chemical suits read a newspaper during a protest rally in central Kiev, March 3, 2006. Several dozens of protesters of Ukraine's Green Party on Friday staged a street event against plans to build a disposal site for nuclear waste in Ukraine.

REUTERS/Ivan Chernichkin

 

 

 


Winter Weather Wreaks Havoc In Region
Drivers Avoid Injury, But Not Each Other

By Charles E. Potter Jr. & Elaine Stoll Published on 3/3/2006 in Region » Region Main Photo

Cars, trucks and buses bumped into each other, guard rails and roadside trees Thursday as a snowstorm whacked the region during the afternoon and into the night.
Fortunately, police and emergency dispatchers called on tow trucks far more frequently than ambulances amid the dicey driving conditions.
Weather-watchers from Lisbon and Colchester who reported to the National Weather Service at 4 p.m., said four inches of snow had fallen by then. The service reported less than an inch of additional precipitation had fallen by the end of the storm late Thursday night.
Police departments reported numerous motor vehicle accidents, including one in Westerly that involved a school bus.
The bus, carrying about 30 children, was entering Route 78 around noon when the incident occurred, according to Police Chief Edward A. Mello. As the bus slowed to merge with traffic, a car behind the bus struck the back of it. No one in either vehicle was hurt, Mello said.
A Westerly dispatcher counted nine weather-related accidents in town by 4 p.m., none serious.
A school bus in Ledyard slid off of Route 214 during its after-school runs. An evening-shift dispatcher was unsure whether schoolchildren were on the bus at the time, but said no one was hurt and that no other vehicles were involved.
“We only had a couple (of accidents) all day,” a dispatcher in Plainfield said. “I guess a lot of people played it smart and stayed off of the streets.”
By 8 p.m., four weather-related accidents had been reported in Waterford, as well as five each in Groton City and Town, 10 in Stonington and 22 in Norwich. State police at Troop E in Montville said they handled 56 accidents on local highways and in towns with resident trooper programs. New London police reported eight accidents in the city. No serious injuries were reported in any of them.
The National Weather Service forecast for today called for no precipitation and temperatures ranging from 31 degrees in the Waterford-New London area to as high as 42 in and around Norwich.


Whistleblower Complaint Draws Attention
Shays To Question NRC in Wake Of Alert-system controversy At Millstone

By Patricia Daddona Published on 3/3/2006 in Region » Region News

by Bob Child
• U.S. Rep. Christopher ShaysThis matter needs to be fully and thoroughly examined. It is unclear as to what extent this matter has been adequately investigated by the NRC and the Department of Labor, but I intend to urge both to look into it further>U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn.U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-4th District, plans to question the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's handling of whistleblowers' complaints next month following reports of a compromised intruder alert system at Millstone Power Station in Waterford.
Sham Mehta of East Lyme, an employee representative who worked for Millstone owner Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, is trying to get his job back after he informed a supervisor two years ago that company managers often allow operators to disable the electronic system used to warn of the presence of trespassers near Millstone's three reactors and spent-fuel pools.
Mehta has filed complaints with the NRC, the U.S. Department of Labor and the state Department of Public Utility Control. The prosecutor for the DPUC has recommended reinstating Mehta in his old job until the agency finishes its investigation. Mehta is currently on paid leave, according to his lawyer, Henry Murray.
Shays and other Connecticut lawmakers in Congress and the General Assembly, as well as homeland security and government officials, said Thursday they want to get to the bottom of the public safety risks raised by the whistleblower in 2004 and reported in the national media this week.
Nearer home, Waterford First Selectman Daniel M. Steward, who had worked in information technology at Millstone prior to his election in November, said Dominion contacted him Thursday to assure him the company will responsibly address the matter.
Steward said he knows Mehta personally and believes his fears are “heartfelt.”
Having worked at Millstone, the first selectman said, “I am well aware that any issue you see out there you are required to bring up. What (Mehta) is doing is absolutely correct. (The company's) response to investigate that ... I don't know how well they've done that. Many things happen out there that appear to be one thing and are not.”
Shays, chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations, has been following up security issues raised by the 2001 terrorist attacks concerning “critical infrastructure” like military bases and nuclear power plants.
On April 4, as a part of the committee hearing he is chairing on homeland security standards, Shays said he will ask if procedures are available for employees to report security concerns and whether those reports can be made without fear of reprisal.
U.S. Rep. Rob Simmons, R-2nd District, and U.S. Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., said they would push for careful investigations and, if necessary, federal intervention.
“This matter needs to be fully and thoroughly examined,” Dodd said. “It is unclear as to what extent this matter has been adequately investigated by the NRC and the Department of Labor, but I intend to urge both to look into it further.”
When Millstone security guards told Mehta that high winds had been triggering false alarms, sometimes as many as 1,000 an hour, on the alert system's network of computers and sensors, supervisors often ordered the system turned off and replaced with guard patrols of the site's interior fence, Murray has said.
On Wednesday, nuclear critics David Lochbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Peter Stockton of the Project on Government Oversight said that the potential risks to the public, if Mehta's allegations are true, are unacceptable.
They also said a worker should be free to raise such issues so they can be addressed, even if those concerns prove to be misplaced.
Millstone was plagued by mismanagement under previous owner Northeast Utilities in the late 1990s, when reactors were shut down and the company fined.
Murray, a Hartford labor lawyer, settled many whistleblower complaints at the time.
“I thought we had moved beyond this so that people felt comfortable coming forward with complaints,” said state Sen. Andrea L. Stillman, D-Waterford, co-chairman of the legislature's Public Safety Committee. “If there are security issues, they must be addressed.”
Paul Krohn, the NRC branch chief who oversees Millstone and other reactors in the region, said NRC inspectors at nuclear reactor sites are trained to deal with and document employee concerns when workers take those issues beyond allegedly unresponsive direct managers.
While Krohn has refused to confirm or deny that the NRC is investigating Mehta's case, he said management reviews of potential whistleblower complaints can lead to such a probe and referral to the Department of Labor. The labor complaint is supposed to be resolved within six months, and the NRC tries not to let any investigation linger without resolution, he said.
The NRC also “goes to great lengths to protect an individual's identity,” Krohn said. In certain circumstances, like an overriding safety issue, for instance, a whistleblower's identity may be revealed publicly, Krohn said.
The state Department of Environmental Protection's radiological division has direct daily access around the clock to the Millstone site and is responsible for oversight at the state level, said John Wiltse, a spokesman for Gov. M. Jodi Rell. He did not say what steps the governor's or state homeland security offices might take to address the issue.
Dominion said Wednesday that Millstone meets or exceeds the NRC's safety standards, an assertion Wiltse said the state, “to date,” has no reason challenge.
Anti-nuclear activist Nancy Burton of the Connecticut Coalition Against Millstone has called for Stillman and Stephen D. Dargan, D-West Haven, the House chairman of the Public Safety Committee, to investigate the matter.
Dargan, who called Mehta's allegations sensitive and scary, said he may be willing to conduct informational public hearings and consider inviting Dominion representatives and Mehta to come forward and discuss them.
Stillman and Steward pointed out that some level of confidentiality in a case like this one, which involves both security and personnel matters, is at least partially needed even when lapses are probed.
“I get very concerned as we talk about these things publicly that information gets out there that can be used to put people at risk,” Stillman said. “The NRC feels we are safe. Certainly I will follow up with the NRC and press them on some information about how they came to that conclusion. Dominion has been a good neighbor, but these are new issues being raised.”


WATERFORD: CONCERNS AT NUCLEAR PLANTNew York Times March 2, 2006
A senior worker at the Millstone nuclear power station said he was laid off in retaliation for raising security concerns to managers and federal regulators, an allegation the station owner denies. The worker, Sham Mehta, 58, has been on paid leave from Dominion Nuclear Connecticut, the plant’s parent company, since January 31, while state and federal energy agencies review his complaint. In a report to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Mr. Mehta said that the station’s electronic security system was flawed and that officials deactivated it to avoid false alarms, the Boston Globe reported yesterday. A Dominion spokesman did not return a call yesterday, but the company told investigators it responded properly to Mr. Mehta’s concerns. The company said his position was cut as part of company restructuring. (AP)


Millstone Alarm System Spurred Whistleblower
Deactivated 'intruder alert' got him fired, East Lyme man says
By Patricia Daddona Published on 3/2/2006 in Region » Region News

When Sham Mehta found an “intruder alert” system turned off at the Millstone nuclear complex in Waterford more than two years ago, he thought it was cause for alarm.
The East Lyme resident had worked at Millstone Power Station for eight years at that point, including the time when reactors were shut down and previous owners fined for mismanagement. Mehta asked security guards about what seemed to be a blatant security gap.
According to Mehta's lawyer, the guards told Mehta that high winds had been triggering false alarms, sometimes as many as 1,000 an hour, on the integrated web of computers, sensors and infrared detectors designed to alert security guards if intruders have broken through defenses. Guards said that company managers for Millstone owner Dominion Nuclear Connecticut had decided to rely on guards in trucks patrolling the fence encircling Millstone's three reactors and spent-fuel pools instead of the computers and electronic monitors.
Since reporting the incident to his direct manager and to the on-site inspector of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Mehta has been fired. He has hired Henry Murray of Hartford, a labor lawyer who handled several whistleblower cases from the days when Northeast Utilities ran Millstone.
Beyond the labor issue, what Mehta learned, if true — said two prominent nuclear critics — puts the lives of the people who live near Millstone at serious risk.
“Anybody who thinks (the guards will) be effective outside the fence — they're like a canary in a coal mine,” said Peter Stockton, a senior investigator at the nonpartisan Project on Government Oversight. “When they die, hopefully they have their radios on, and you'll know they've died. Otherwise, you're dead meat.
“So it's ridiculous to say you're going to have guys on the fence. It's not effective.”
It also should be unusual, according to David Lochbaum, an engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists.
“At other reactor sites, there are times that the system gets blinded, that it gets so many nuisance alarms that it stops doing what you want it to do,” Lochbaum said. “But those times are rare. Outdoor weather conditions are something the system should be designed to handle.”
Spokesmen for the NRC and Dominion declined to address the specific allegations Mehta has made, and the NRC wouldn't even confirm that it is investigating. Both maintain the company runs its plants in Waterford safely and does not compromise security measures.
“When an employee brings a concern to the forefront, we investigate it thoroughly and completely,” said Jim Norvelle, a spokesman for Millstone's parent company, Dominion of Virginia. “This was done in Mr. Mehta's case. Dominion believes that it has fully complied with the law.”
•••
Mehta's complaints have taken him to the NRC, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the state Department of Public Utility Control, which has recommended directing the company to reinstate him after the company allegedly retaliated, Murray said, by eliminating his job.
Murray maintains, however, that apart from worries about where his next paycheck is coming from, Mehta prizes his role as a senior supervisor in the Employee Concerns Program at Millstone.
“Given the heightened concern about terrorist activity directed at nukes,” Murray said, “(Mehta) decided after he observed disabled security systems, 'Look, I think this is wrong,' ” and he took steps to right the situation, steps that may have cost him his job.
Among the NRC's many enhancements to nuclear security after the 2001 terrorist attacks is a change that requires companies not merely to correct security problems and closely review employee performance but to encourage a safety-conscious work environment, Lochbaum said.
“The whole concept is, even if employees are wrong (about a security lapse), as long as they're acting in good faith they should have the freedom to raise security concerns,” he said. “In the past, Millstone waited too long before asking those questions.”
The electronic safety network that Mehta found switched off monitors the “protected” area on the 524-acre site, Lochbaum and Stockton said.
The more times guards are placed on patrol to supplant a computer system that is meant to ease their workload, the more fatigued they are likely to be, and the less properly prepared for an actual attack, Lochbaum said. Today, the number of hours guards are allowed to work is also limited for that reason, he said.
“When you hire security guards and staff your plant, you staff it for what the workload will be,” Lochbaum said. “You probably didn't staff your plant based on the computer not working. The computer is supposed to save labor, not invoke additional labor. The problems with the fence could push the security guards toward that working hour limit.”
•••
Paul Krohn, the NRC branch chief who oversees Millstone and other reactors in the region, acknowledged the limits to guard hours generally, saying his agency would ensure compliance “if Millstone is out of compliance.”
Mehta knew that repair or replacement of such a system would be expensive, but he nonetheless brought what he considered a security lapse to the attention of his direct manager. Though he failed to convince him of the situation's urgency, Murray said, he was troubled that even he had seen gaps in the guards' coverage of the fence.
“His concern was if he could figure that out, so could someone else,” Murray said.
Last month, in response to a complaint filed with the state, it was recommended that Dominion reinstate Mehta in his old job while the complaint is pending. The company has placed him on paid leave.
Mehta's loss of work was not merely a layoff stemming from a company realignment but rather “a pretext for eliminating” him because he raised “serious concerns that his superiors not only did not want to hear, but wanted to silence,” Murray said.
Lochbaum and Stockton fear that Dominion's treatment of Mehta ignores the risk he took out of concern for plant and public safety.
“If this is all true,” said Stockton, “to go after somebody as blatantly as this is outrageous.”
If Mehta's concerns weren't valid, the company “has an obligation to reflect that back to the employee,” Lochbaum said. “Dominion has failed to meet at least one of its obligations: either to get back to Mr. Mehta on why it's not a problem or (start) making the repairs if it's a real problem.”
Lochbaum and Stockton also believe the company has not taken Mehta's concerns seriously.
Reactor owners routinely test their security measures with “force-on-force” drills in which plant security forces defend against mock attackers, but to date the highest number of mock attackers is five, which doesn't approach the 19 involved in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Stockton said.
“What troubled me most in Mr. Mehta's complaint is at some point Dominion (concluded) security must be OK, because they passed the force-on-force test,” Lochbaum said. “Yet, during that test, the perimeter detection system isn't tested at all.”
Krohn would not discuss the specifics of security drills, saying that he and his colleagues enforce longstanding and newly improved security measures to ensure compliance.
“If we find a problem at a site, we don't walk away and leave it in place,” Krohn said.
Norvelle likewise said he could not discuss “any security at any of our nuclear stations.”
“We operate safe and secure power stations and we will continue to do so even as regulations continue to be scrutinized, reviewed and improved,” Norvelle said. Dominion meets “and in some cases exceeds” NRC security requirements, Norvelle added, a claim Krohn said is accurate.
Lochbaum and Stockton are eager to see the results of the NRC investigation that the agency would neither confirm nor deny it has undertaken. Krohn noted that, coincidentally, the NRC will conduct a “problem identification and resolution inspection” at Millstone soon. The probe is done every two years to ensure employees can speak freely about concerns, he said.
“We don't think (reactor owners) are protecting these sites from reasonable threats” to begin with, countered Stockton. “And the whole business of not paying attention to people's complaints is outrageous, because you really can improve security that way.”