Engineer fired for raising red flags about nuclear plant shortcuts
Company ordered to pay back wages
An engineer who was fired after raising safety concerns about a nuclear power plant that was under construction will receive back wages and compensatory damages, after an investigation by OSHA.
The agency found that the licensed professional civil and structural engineer was terminated Jan. 30, 2012, for reporting breaches of minimum soil coverage requirements for emergency service water piping and for refusing to provide Enercon Services, Inc. an engineering justification for the use of concrete as backfill over the piping.
The breaches occurred when a trench was dug to bury a grounding cable for a new security fence being constructed for the emergency service water pump house at Wolf Creek. The trench encroached on the minimum soil coverage requirement for the pipes, necessitating that it be backfilled to bring the plant back in compliance.
The evidence showed that a manager for Enercon Services proposed to backfill the pipes with concrete before the arrival of NRC inspectors, but that the engineer refused to implement the design change because he believed concrete fill was insufficient.
The senior engineer was fired a few days later. Wolf Creek ultimately used cohesive soil as backfill over the pipes.
OSHA determined that Enercon Services violated the whistle-blower provisions of the Energy Reorganization Act. The company has been ordered to pay $261,152.69 in back wages, compensatory damages and interest, plus attorney's fees.
"Professionals who work in the nuclear power industry have a right and a responsibility to express their professional opinion and report safety-related concerns," said Marcia Drumm, acting regional administrator for OSHA in Kansas City.