Whistleblower Sues Westinghouse Over Dismissal
PITTSBURGH (AP) _ A former nuclear engineer with Westinghouse Electric Corp. says he was fired for raising safety concerns at a Georgia nuclear plant, but the company says he was dismissed for punching a supervisor.
In a lawsuit against Westinghouse, Terry Dysert said the Pittsburgh-based company fabricated the assault charge to justify his dismissal.
He said he actually was fired for complaining about faults in a safety system at the Vogtle Power Station near Augusta, Ga., that could prevent control room operators from recognizing problems in the reactor’s core.
″A worst-case scenario would be what happened at Three Mile Island,″ Dysert, 39, formerly of Pittsburgh and now of Coconut Grove, Fla., said Wednesday.
Westinghouse spokesman Bob Henderson said Georgia Power Co., which built the plant, investigated Dysert’s complaints and ″the matter was resolved to the satisfaction of Georgia Power, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and even of Dysert.″
Westinghouse, which designed the Georgia plant, denied there were any problems of the sort he alleged.
″The employee’s dismissal was totally unrelated to the safety concerns he had raised,″ Henderson said. ″Westinghouse employees are encouraged to express safety concerns and may do so without fear of intimidation or harassment.″
Labor Department Area Director John O’Brien, while acknowledging that Dysert ″was not a diplomat″ about the matter, concluded earlier that Dysert’s safety complaints ″ruffled feathers and ... ultimately led to his termination.″
O’Brien noted that Westinghouse had previously disregarded the alleged assault.
However, Administrative Law Judge George Pierce, to whom Westinghouse appealed, rejected Dysert’s claim to be a protected whistleblower under the law and said he was fired for the alleged assault, not for raising safety concerns.
In his suit, filed Friday in state court in Philadelphia, Dysert contends he was fired in July 1986 for complaining about the adequacy of tests performed on a monitoring system in the Unit 1 reactor at Vogtle, which went on line in June 1987 after more than 15 years of controversy over cost and safety.
The instruments monitor water levels in the primary cooling system, critical to the reactor’s safe operation.
Dysert said he found three problems - a leak in the emergency cooling system, oil in the system and faulty electronic equipment gauging water levels - which he said his supervisor ignored.
″There is the potential that if the system was used alone the plant operators would be led to make a wrong decision. They may decide there’s no problem at all,″ he said.
Dysert said his supervisor transferred him when he asked to have the tests rerun. He was later fired, accused of having assaulted his team leader in the parking lot of a Georgia motel after work.