LOWER ALLOWAYS CREEK TOWNSHIP, N.J. - Federal regulators are worried that a security manager's firing from a job at a nuclear plant could deter employees and contractors from questioning safety at one of the nation's largest nuclear power stations.
A federal jury in Camden last month concluded that the 2009 firing of Robert Scull was in retaliation for the manager's plan to tell the NRC about his safety concerns at the adjoining Hope Creek and Salem nuclear plants in Lower Alloways Creek Township, south of Wilmington, Del.
Scull said he did not have enough assistants to maintain security of the plants, the second-largest nuclear generating facility in the U.S. He was awarded $400,000 and has since made court filings asking for his old job back.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a letter to plant operator PSEG Nuclear on Friday asking it to detail what actions the company was taking to ensure the firing doesn't have a chilling effect on other would-be whistleblowers.
PSEG said in a statement that it is taking the matter seriously.
"We are confident that the right nuclear safety-conscious work environment still exists within PSEG Nuclear and that employees and contractors are comfortable raising concerns," spokesman Joe Delmar said in a statement. "However, we are taking this opportunity to once again reinforce the nuclear safety culture expectations with our employees and leadership."
PSEG was not part of the court case because the security manager worked for a private contractor, the Wackenhut Corp., which is now known as G4S Secure Solutions.
But the NRC said in the letter that PSEG is responsible for the actions of contractors.
"The finding that Wackenhut retaliated against the individual for engaging in a protected activity raises questions with the NRC as to whether the work environment at Salem and Hope Creek is such that employees are encouraged and willing to raise safety and regulatory concerns," said the letter from William Dean, an NRC regional administrator.