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By Samuel R. Avro on Jan 7, 2009 with no responses

Slap on the Wrist for Nuke Plant After Guards Nap on the Job


The saying "if you snooze, you lose" may not apply at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has levied a $65,000 fine on Exelon after guards at their nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania were caught on video snoozing on the job.

The NRC said that multiple guards were “deliberately inattentive” on more than one occasion in the plant’s break room, and the incidents were not reported to plant supervisors.

Exelon has since terminated its contract with security service provider Wackenhut Corp. and currently uses in-house security at their Peach Bottom nuclear plant since the issue came to light in 2007.

The nuclear company has since “made wide-ranging changes to its security program at Peach Bottom and at other plants it owns as a result of these events,” the NRC noted in a press release.

However, some see this fine as a mere slap on the wrist, and aren’t pleased with the fact that it doesn’t set an example for other security personal who may be shirking their duties.

The independent Project On Government Oversight said that they are “concerned that the proposed $65,000 civil penalty does not send a very loud message to other power plants about the need to implement new work hour rules that ensure security personnel remain capable of safely performing their duties. In fact, the proposed fine probably doesn’t even come close to covering the cost of NRC’s investigation into the matter.”

The NRC investigation determined that the plant’s security program “wasn’t significantly degraded” by the episodes.

But “the Notice of Violation notes that the specific violations for which the fine is being issued include a failure to adhere to an NRC requirement that armed responders maintain continuous communication with each alarm station and be available to immediately respond to threats,” the NRC said in its statement.

The company has 30 days to pay the fine.

Exelon did not receive credit for identifying the problem, since the investigation was triggered by an allegation, the NRC said.

“We received video that guards were inattentive at the site,” said Diane Screnci, an NRC spokeswoman.

A civil penalty of $65,000 was deemed appropriate due to the company being “given credit for prompt and comprehensive corrective actions once the violations were identified,” the NRC said.

Exelon plans to pay the fine, and says that monitoring of plant security has improved since the incidents became known.

“We are able to have more direct oversight over our security now,” Exelon spokeswoman Beth Archer said.