'Sleeping Guards' in the local news
A summary of Peach Bottom sleeping guards incidents
March 2007: John Jasinski sends the Nuclear Regulatory Commission a letter alleging guards are sleeping throughout the nuclear plant in York County, Pa. The NRC refers the concern to plant owner Exelon and security provider Wackenhut.
Sept. 10: WCBS in New York informs the NRC that it has a videotape of guards asleep or nodding off in a “ready room” near the nuclear reactor.
Sept. 21: An NRC inspection confirms only the 10 guards caught on tape were sleeping — only one of four shifts is implicated.
Nov. 1: Exelon terminates its contract with Wackenhut and takes over the plant’s security. Whistle-blower Kerry Beal, on leave during the investigation, is not among the Wackenhut guards rehired by Exelon.
Nov. 5: NRC inspectors follow up at Peach Bottom to ensure Exelon is correcting the problem.
December 2007-2008: NRC pledges to monitor Peach Bottom.
Baltimore Examiner, December 12, 2007
Sleeping Guards in the Local News:
Feb. 28, 2006
NRC examing TMI security
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission plans to investigate the management of the security force at Three Mile Island, focusing on fitness-for-duty issues such as fatigue and sleeping on the job.
The probe, announced in a certified letter delivered to a Patriot-News reporter, was prompted by a story published Jan. 29.
The story reported on a memo in which John Young, head of the Wackenhut security, scolded security supervisors for failing to note that veteran officers were telling new hires safe places to sleep undetected while on duty. Wackenhut is a private security firm hired by plant owner Exelon Nuclear to guard the nuclear station.
The memo also said officers were telling new hires ways to short-cut patrol duties.
Of additional concern to the NRC were reports that security officers were being allowed to work excessive hours. The newspaper documented one person who worked more than 150 hours during a 14-day period, and averaged more than 54 hours a week for more than 10 months.
Since March 2004, AmerGen Energy, the operator of TMI, investigated and disciplined five workers for "inattentiveness to duty." The phrase is used by the industry and regulators to cover an array of conditions, including sleeping. Three of those workers were security officers.
Guards, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said fatigue from long hours and boredom were to blame for the inattentiveness.
Guards work 12-hour shifts at TMI. Federal regulations limit those hours to 16 out of 24; 26 hours out of 48; and 72 out of seven days.
The agency said it will not announce the findings of the probe.
"Due to the nature of the security-related issues ... we are not providing you with further information on this matter," wrote David J. Vito, senior allegation coordinator for the NRC.
-Report by Garry Lenton of the Patriot-News
April 26, 2007
Work hours to be limited for some nuclear plant workers
Security workers and others in critical jobs at the nation's nuclear plants will no longer be allowed to log excessive overtime hours under new rules approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The change in the NRC's "fitness for duty" requirements is meant to reduce fatigue among plant employees and improve safety and security.
Exelon Nuclear, owner of Three Mile Island, Peach Bottom and Limerick nuclear stations in Pennsylvania, and seven other plants nationwide, expects to increase security staffing to reduce overtime.
"Any area where you have 24/7 coverage is most likely to be impacted," said Craig Nesbit, a spokesman for the company.
The regulations, which should go into effect this year, end a policy that allowed plant operators to meet work-hour limits by averaging the hours of dozens of employees. The process allowed some employees to log hundreds of hours of overtime a month. The new rule bases hourly limits on individuals.
The work-hour limits apply to security, maintenance and operations staffers, such as control room operators.
The rule is common sense, said Dave Lochbaum, a nuclear safety expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group.
"Groups don't get tired. People do," he said.
David Desaulniers, an NRC staffer who helped shepherd the rule change through a seven-year administrative review, said the revision will improve plant safety.
"I think that what the commission has approved will be a substantial step forward in addressing worker fatigue issues in the future," said Desaulniers, senior human factors analyst for the agency.
The shortcomings of group averaging were evident at TMI, where some security officers employed by Wackenhut Nuclear Services logged 72-hour weeks for six weeks straight last year.
In 2005, TMI officials cited three security workers for being inattentive or sleeping on the job. Each incident occurred during the night shift. Security officers contacted by The Patriot-News at the time said the incidents were not surprising given the overtime officers were being compelled to work.
The NRC rule, which must undergo review by the federal Office of Management and budget before it goes into effect, also:
• Increases the minimum break between shifts from eight hours to 10.
• Establishes training requirements for fatigue management.
• Limits the reasons plant operators may waive the hourly limits.
• Revises drug- and alcohol-testing requirements.
A veteran security officer at TMI employed by Wackenhut welcomed the changes. "It will definitely keep things from getting really bad again like they were in '02 and '03," said the officer, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified.
Another officer, also requesting anonymity, said the change would significantly reduce fatigue. But he remained skeptical of how much leeway employers would have to waive the rules under special circumstances.
Though the NRC establishes the regulations, it does not require plants to obtain agency approval before authorizing a worker to go over the limit.
Eric Epstein, chairman of the Harrisburg-based watchdog group Three Mile Island Alert, had similar concerns. "I believe the standards are contingent upon voluntary compliance," he said. "I see nothing that suggests there will be more aggressive oversight of a new fitness-for-duty program."
-Report by Garry Lenton of the Patriot-News