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Thursday
Dec132012

Federal government whistleblower protections strengthened

Richard H. Perkins, top, and Lawrence Criscione, are risk analysts within the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They are also whistleblowers who say the agency is not leveling with the public.As London Guardian readers elect U.S. whistleblower Bradley Manning as Person of the Year, there is more good news on the whistleblower front in the U.S. as well. As reported by Project on Government Oversight (POGO), the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act has been signed into law, after more than a decade of campaigning.

This comes just in the nick of time for two U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) whistleblowers, Richard H. Perkins and Lawrence Criscione (photos, left). The two NRC Staffers have warned, independently, that NRC has not only neglected, but even covered up, the risk of meltdowns at U.S. atomic reactors due to flooding caused by dam failures, as at the Oconee nuclear power plant in South Carolina. The Huffington Post has published a series of articles about this story (see the most recent one here).

NRC whistleblowers are very far and few between. One that Beyond Nuclear has had the honor and privilege of working with is Dr. Ross Landsman, who served at NRC Region 3 in Chicago before retiring in 2005. Landsman testified before Congress about the Midland, Michigan nuclear power plant in the 1980s, which helped stop those two reactors from ever operating (safety-critical buildings at the plant were sinking into the ground, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa). Beginning 20 years ago, Landsman also warned NRC about earthquake safety regulation violations with high-level radioactive waste storage at Palisades in Michigan, located as close as 100 yards from the waters of Lake Michigan, drinking water supply for 40 million people downstream in North America. The violations have never been addressed.

Landsman also warned about a soft-spot (due to concrete and rebar degradation) on the already too small, too weak containment building at Cook nuclear power plant in s.w. MI, a problem that has never been corrected.

Nuclear power industry whistleblowers, however, are still very vulnerable to harassment, intimidation, blacklisting, and worse. Oscar Shirani, a nationally renowned quality assurance auditor who worked for Commonwealth Edison/Exelon, was run out of the company and blacklisted by the U.S. nuclear power industry, after revealing major QA violations on the Holtec dry storage/transport cask systems for high-level radioactive waste, used at 33 U.S. reactors. Dr. Landsman supported Shirani's allegations, but the NRC and U.S. Department of Labor did not, hanging Shirani out to dry.