Tuesday, January 15, 2008

San Onofre's Problems Continue

So last week it was reported that a failed backup generator at the San Onofre Nuclear Power plant had prompted a federal investigation. At the time, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it no longer issued fines except for deliberate acts of misconduct. Becuase this was a case of mere imcompetence or simple neglect, it didn't count.

Well, this week, we find out that the feds have discovered that San Onofre personnel have been cooking the books on safety logs for five years, as well as a host of other safety violations. According to the Los Angeles Times:

"In addition to falsified records, officials uncovered two security lapses, but would not elaborate on them. The other violations involved a radiation worker who did not comply with the conditions of a work permit, and a company failure to properly supervise an unqualified technician, whose work led to the temporary shutdown of a safety system."

As if anticipating our question, the Times notes: "Though the actions of plant workers were deliberate, NRC and Edison officials said the five incidents did not represent a significant threat to the safety of San Onofre. Victor Dricks, an NRC spokesman, said the lapses were what the agency calls "Level 4" violations, or the least serious."But I don't want to diminish their importance," Dricks said. "They involve willful misconduct."
Now we know from last week that "deliberate" misconduct will get you a fine, right? Nope. In no fewer than ten published write-ups on the findings, there is nary a mention of a fine-- just "corrective actions" that include training for employees and ethics classes!

If you feel like the contractors working on a nuclear power plant need ethics classes, you've got a pretty big problem that requires more than some classroom time to correct.
The problem with all of this of course is that it is a classic case of a single rotten apple threatenting to spoil the whole bushel... look for a new wave of anti-nuclear power sentiment, at precisely the time when we need clean energy fuel alternatives the most.