The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Local News

May 3, 2013

NRC report: 16 internal complaints filed at Browns Ferry

— CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission tracking of whistleblower complaints at nuclear plants lists both of TVA's plants in Tennessee among the top five.

Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant in Athens also had several internal complaints.

The NRC report showed there were 21 complaints against Watts Bar, 19 on Sequoyah and 16 at Browns Ferry in 2012.

TVA spokesman Mike Bradley said the utility took action after conducting its own analysis for the NRC.

Bradley said some new hires during a steam generator replacement project at Sequoyah didn't use in-house complaints, but went directly to the NRC, causing a spike in the number.

He said at Watts Bar, confusion over a change in work-ready status sparked complaints.

Dave Lochbaum, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' nuclear safety project, said he is concerned that TVA is the only utility with more than one plant on the list.

"Workers are like canaries in a coal mine. They are the first to detect problems," said Lochbaum, who also noted federal law requires workers to report safety problems.

The NRC issued a report on April 29 in which the agency said regulatory analysts probed six plants -- including Watts Bar and Sequoyah -- because of their 2012 allegation numbers.

Roger Hannah, a spokesman for the NRC, said the number of complaints at individual plants don't tell a complete story, but said the agency uses spikes in complaints as indicators in future inspections.

"If you have large numbers, we would ask the question: Is there something wrong with your (in-house) employee concerns program?" Hannah said.

TVA said that after the utility clarified misconceptions, complaints at both Watts Bar and Sequoyah returned to levels typical in the nuclear power industry.

"TVA actively encourages our employees to raise concerns by a variety of methods, including through the NRC," Bradley said.

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