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B&W Defend Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant Whistleblower

Kerry Beal, a client of Bernabei & Kabat PLLC, was a whistleblower at the Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant in southeastern Pennsylvania, which is operated by Exelon. Mr. Beal lost his job in November 2007 after he complained openly about security guards sleeping on the job at Peach Bottom. In March 2007, in an effort to protect the community and his job, a friend, John Jasinski, had made a complaint to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), without disclosing Mr. Beal’s identity. NRC took no action on these complaints other than refer the complaints to Exelon, for an internal investigation that failed to substantiate any allegation of sleeping on duty. Not until after a videotape was publicly broadcast, showing the sleeping guards, did the NRC take any action, and Exelon belatedly ended its contract with Wackenhut to provide the security guards at its nuclear power plants, thereby vindicating Mr. Beal.

On February 28, 2008, the U.S. Senate, Committee on Environment and Public Works, Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety, held an oversight hearing on “Security of Our Nation’s Nuclear Plants.” At that hearing, Senator Bob Casey (Pennsylvania) testified that the sleeping by the security guards was “inexcusable,” that it was necessary to “fix this serious problem at our nation’s nuclear security plants,” and that he had met with Mr. Beal, “the whistleblower who alerted us to the sleeping guards in the first place.” Read Casey Testimony

David Lochbaum, a nuclear engineer with the Union of Concerned Scientists, testified that NRC, Exelon, and Wackenhut all knew about these problems, but failed to take any action. He emphasized that: “It is impossible to determine which is more unacceptable and intolerable – sleeping on duty or ignoring security warnings from conscientious workers. Both behaviors allowed sleeping to continue until outside force was brought to bear on the matter.” Read Lochbaum Testimony. Mr. Lochbaum documented that not until there was a rumor that a videotape existed did the NRC finally conduct its own investigation, months later.

Dale Klein, the NRC Chairman, admitted in his testimony that “this behavior is unacceptable,” since the NRC “requires that security personnel … be attentive at all times.” Read Klein Testimony. Gregory Jaczko, an NRC Commissioner, also admitted that: “I, too, was very concerned to discover that security guards on duty at Peach Bottom Nuclear Station conspired to sleep during their shift. That is absolutely unacceptable and you can rest assured that the NRC takes this situation very seriously and is vigorously pursuing it. We are focused on two things: investigating those directly involved – and holding the licensee and the contractor accountable – and taking a long hard look at our own performance as an agency.” Read Jaczko Testimony. However, neither Chairman Klein, nor the other NRC commissioners who also testified, were able to explain why the NRC uncritically accepted Exelon’s whitewash report, and failed to take any substantive action until after the existence of the video became known.