Congressman: Utility Coached On How To ‘Put One Over’ NRC
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A utility that operates nuclear plants in New Jersey and Pennsylvania was coached by a private contractor on how to ″put one over″ federal regulators, Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said Saturday.
In a letter to Nunzio Palladino, chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Markey raised questions about a course taught in November 1983 by General Physics Corp. of Columbia, Md.
Markey said the two-day course appeared to advise its recipient, General Public Utilities Nuclear Corp., on methods of evading the intent of NRC regulations.
GPU Nuclear operates the Oyster Creek nuclear plant in New Jersey and the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania. The course was attended only by employees of Oyster Creek, said Oyster Creek spokesman John Fidler.
The subject of the seminars was testing of nuclear plant containment systems, which check the release of potentially harmful radioactive discharges from inside containment building walls.
Markey, chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee that monitors the NRC, released the letter Saturday and said General Physics also has received $500,000 in contracts from the NRC in the past four years.
″Aside from any possible conflict of interest issues that may or may not exist, it certainly is questionable whether any contractor that advises nuclear utilities on how to put one over on the federal government should also have the privilege of receiving taxpayers’ money,″ he said.
A course lecture outline provided by Markey said in part: ″Should the utility inform the NRC of contemplated program changes? This is debatable. Alerting NRC opens up utility for comments and second thoughts. Springing changes on NRC has benefit of surprise.″
In another section, the outline says valve checks when NRC inspectors are present should be performed ″on an ‘easy’ valve which has traditionally not been a ‘problem leaker.’ ″
Jay Whitney, vice president and chief administrative officer of General Physics, said Markey’s assertions were based only on several pages of course documents.
″When the whole course is taken in context, there are numerous instances where we stress the importance of regulatory actions and how to properly fulfill regulatory obligations,″ he said.
He said that after 1983, 90 percent of the material Markey objected to was removed from the course.
″We have no disagreement that is inappropriate to counsel any kind of gamesmanship with respect to public health and safety requirements,″ Whitney said.
GPU Nuclear said in a statement that material excerpted from the course outline ″is inconsistent with well-estabished company policy and training, which requires all of our employees to be fully open with the NRC.″
Markey asked Palladino to consider whether General Physics should continue to receive NRC business, and whether the course raised questions about the management integrity of GPU Nuclear.
General Physics provides training and engineering services to the power and defense industries.