(Host) A nuclear watchdog group says workers at the Vermont Yankee plant are working dangerously long hours as the reactor undergoes a major overhaul. The group filed its allegations this week with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
VPR’s John Dillon reports:
(Dillon) Yankee has just begun a refueling outage, and more than one thousand workers are also on site to install new equipment for a 20 percent power upgrade.
The New England Coalition, a group that fought the power increase, says its heard complaints that employees are working long hours – 12 to 16 hour shifts for up to seven days a week. Coalition advisor Ray Shadis says that when workers are tired, they can make mistakes.
(Shadis) “The inspection reports for Vermont Yankee through the year 2003 contain a number of issues, failures at the plant. And almost every one of them can be attributed to poor judgment on the part of some worker, maybe inattention on the part of some worker. Of course that’s tied directly to whether or not they are fit for duty, whether or not they are fatigued.”
(Dillon) The coalition recently set up a whistleblower hotline to gather complaints from inside the plant. A spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it’s reviewing the allegations.
Yankee spokesman Larry Smith said long hours are common during refueling outages. But, he says that officials always watch out for worker fatigue.
(Smith) “This is nothing new for us. For the last 30 years, every 18 months – that’s the refueling cycle – and when we’re in the refueling outage which started this past Monday, we’re working around the clock. And nuclear safety and personal safety are our primary concerns. It’s a safe plant because we run safe outages. If someone’s tired, they can’t work, they’re encouraged to go to their supervisor for any reason.”
(Dillon) The plant spokesman also said he hasn’t seen the letter that outlines the overtime allegations.
For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.