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Keating Unhappy with NRC's Response on Pilgrim Lockout

Congressmen Ed Markey and Bill Keating are dissatisfied with the NRC's failure to provide information about the training of replacement workers at Pilgrim during the recent lockout.

Rep. Bill Keating is not happy with the NRC's assurances that all safety precautions were in place during the recent .

Tuesday, Massachusetts Congressmen Edward J. Markey, D-Malden, and Bill Keating, D-Bourne, sent a follow-up letter to the NRC expressing their dissatisfaction with the NRC's response to their request for more information about the emergency response capabilities at Pilgrim during the recent labor dispute that saw nearly 250 union workers escorted offsite following the expiration of their contract.

To fill staffing gaps during the lockout, Entergy had members of Pilgrim’s management team, as well as other managers from its nuclear fleet, filling the necessary positions.

Reps. Markey and Keating sent a to the NRC on June 8, expressing concerns about the situation and requesting experiential information for each replacement worker to assess their aptitude for both day-to-day and emergency operations.

According to a release from Markey's office:

The NRC’s response...lacked key information such as the number of hours replacement workers spent operating a nuclear power plant, if any testing of workers was completed, or whether requirements for staff training in emergency situations were met.

We note that considerable materials requested were ultimately not provided – and because these materials were not provided, we are unable to determine whether the NRC’s conclusion that 'the operational and emergency response duties at Pilgrim were being conducted by adequately trained personnel' during the time of the strike was an accurate statement," write Reps. Markey and Keating in the letter.

Here's the main part of the letter:

With regard to the labor dispute, the NRC stated that your “inspectors’ review and assessment activities provided reasonable assurance that the operational and emergency response duties at Pilgrim were being conducted by adequately trained personnel who would have responded to any situation in accordance with approved procedures and the station’s operating license.”

 While we appreciate your July 23 response to our letter, we not that considerable materials requests were ultimately not provided – and because these materials were not provided, we are unable to determine whether the NRC’s conclusion that “the operational and emergency response duties at Pilgrim were being conducted by adequately trained personnel” during the time of the strike was an accurate statement. For example, in the letter, you asserted that “the training and qualifications of these individuals is the same as that of bargaining unit reactor operators,” yet you also said that you do not collect nor maintain key metrics for confirming this assertion, such as the number of hours each replacement worker spent operating a nuclear power plant in the past year, past five years, and during emergency response and mitigation processes and procedures. You noted that “NRC regulations require that operators and senior operators must actively perform the functions of an operator or senior operator for a minimum of 56 hours each calendar quarter,” yet you provide no assurance that each of the replacement personnel had in fact met this requirement. Finally, you stated that “NRC’s activities during the lockout did not include testing of replacement workers regarding their ability to respond to emergency scenarios,” though you did not tell us why not. This is troubling because we feel that it is exactly these types of scenarios that temporary personnel should be equipped to handle, particularly since the meltdown at Fukushima occurred within hours of the loss of offsite power.

We are also troubled by the NRC’s apparent disinterest in obtaining this information. Rep. Markey’s staff spoke with NRC staff on June 28, and was notified that the information we requested in our June 8 letter relating to the ability and experience of the Pilgrim replacement workers to perform essential emergency response functions would not be requested from the licensee because it did not relate to NRC’s regulatory mission, even though that mission, according to the NRC’s website, is “to ensure the safe use of radioactive materials for beneficial civilian purposes while protecting people and the environment.”

We disagree with this conclusion. It is simply not possible to reconcile NRC’s confident assertion that “the operational and emergency response duties at Pilgrim were being conducted by adequately trained personnel” with a concurrent refusal to verify that this is in fact the case.

Consequently, for each item listed below that we requested in our June 8 letter but were not provided with, please a) request the information from Entergy…, b) provide us with the response from the licensee, and c) indicate whether or not you agree (and if not, why not) that the receipt and review of the information would help establish that the reactor was being operated by personnel who were qualified to do so safely during the strike:

  • For each replacement worker:
    • The number of hours the individual spend operating a nuclear power plant in the past year
    • The number of hours the individual had spend operating the Pilgrim plant in the past five years
    • The number of hours the individual had spend operating a nuclear power plant of the same design as the Pilgrim plant in the past five years
    • The number of hours the individual spent being trained in emergency response and mitigation processes and procedures in both the year preceding and the time following the Fukushima meltdowns
  • For each of the workers that were “locked out” of the facility as a consequence of the labor strike:
    • The same four pieces of information as above
    • The reason(s) why NRC’s activities during the lockout did not include testing of replacement workers regarding their ability to respond to emergency scenarios

Markey and Keating requested a response by Friday, Aug. 17.

The NRC response to Reps. Markey and Keating’s June 8 letter can be found HERE.

The NRC recently relicensed the Pilgrim Nuclear Generating Station for another 20 years despite unresolved environmental and nuclear safety issues and outstanding judicial and administrative reviews. Reps. Markey and Keating wrote to the NRC opposing moving forward with the relicensing decision until resolution of these issues.

Tom McCoy July 31, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I have a few grandchildren and many questions for their safety living here in Plymouth near the nuclear power plant. Is their a government person reponsible for answering such questions?
Casey Meserve July 31, 2012 at 10:44 PM
Hi Tom, In Plymouth you can talk to members of the Nuclear Matters Committee. That committee is dedicated to ensuring that the concerns of residents are heard by Entergy. The committee has regular meetings and the members are very approachable.
citizen1 August 01, 2012 at 01:39 PM
there's very few places in this country where you aren't living within a 200 mile radius of a nuclear power plant. my question to keating and markey is, would they care about any of this if it wasn't an election year?
Casey Meserve August 01, 2012 at 02:20 PM
Citizen1, Keating has been following the relicensing process for Pilgrim since he took office. I have no idea about Markey. He is the dean of the state's delegation however.
Casey Meserve August 16, 2012 at 03:09 PM
Hey I'm at the COA today. Showing the folks how to use Patch!

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