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Project on Government Oversight

POGO’s comments to the NRC about the guard fatigue issue

Related Content: Nuclear Power, Nuclear Security
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December 20, 2005


Secretary
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Washington, DC 20555-0001

SUBJECT: Comments on Guard Fatigue in Draft 10 CFR Part 26

Via Facsimile: (301) 415-1101

Dear Secretary,

The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has serious concerns with the current draft fatigue rule (Federal Register / Vol. 70, No. 165 / Friday, August 26, 2005) issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Two areas we are particularly concerned about are: the NRC’s use of “group hours” as a measure of the fatigue of security officers; and the protocols surrounding security officers “self declaring” that they are too fatigued to work.

POGO believes that the NRC should more closely oversee the self-declaration process. We have found examples of “self-declaring” officers being fired, sent to psychiatrists and also given undesirable schedules – all forms of retaliation. Obviously, because of such tactics, many officers are intimidated into not self-declaring and are forced to work under duress. The NRC should take enforcement action and levee fines whenever evidence of retaliation against officers surfaces.

Our investigation of nuclear plant security – using interviews with officers and documents obtained through the Freedom Of Information Act – is ongoing. We have used Beaver Valley (Pennsylvania) as a case study for fatigue. According to our information, a high percentage of officers worked between 60 and 72 hours per week, and some even worked more than 72.

1st Energy, the utility company that owns Beaver Valley, had admitted it was in violation of group hours, but then rescinded that admission. The NRC then concluded that 1st Energy was only in violation of individual hours. However, POGO recently received a current internal 1st Energy document that indicates the company was in violation of group hours the vast majority of the time between November 2004 and early March 2005. (Attachment A) POGO also learned that this document was on the plant’s security officer bulletin board with a note admonishing personnel to keep track of their hours because they had been in violation of group hours for several months. It is important to note that these violations of the Fatigue Order were directly brought to the attention of the NRC Region I, yet NRC investigators still missed these violations. (Attachment B)

One problem with the group hours approach to monitoring fatigue is that the NRC will not publicly address how many armed responders are in each “group.” It is important to understand that individual security officers get fatigued, not groups. And their ability to respond to an incident is diminished when they are tired. POGO is concerned that the utility companies are able to fudge how many armed security officers they have on shift by sneaking the unarmed officers, trainers, and in some cases clerical and managerial staff into the group with the armed responders. So, in their reporting, the utility can state that the group did not work more than 48 hours, on average, when a number of individual armed officers may have worked more than 72 hours. See the comments made by Anthony Rizzo Jr., Salem and Hope Creek Nuclear Power Plants (Attachment C).

As one officer said in an interview with POGO, “If I’m working 72 hours and am fatigued, someone working 30 hours can’t sleep for me.”

Needless to say, POGO believes the group hour measurement is irresponsible and should be deleted from the rule. In past discussions with POGO, NRC officials have claimed that security officer unions have joined the industry to push for extra-hours for their members. There is an overriding national interest in having an alert and ready security force, that can respond to a rapid and violent terrorist attack. Utility companies often insist on over-working guards so that protective force personnel can make adequate money, through overtime. Instead, utilities should simply raise guards hourly wages.

We have attached two letters on the fatigue subject, written by two power plant security officers with years of experience.

In closing, POGO makes these recommendations:

1) Eliminate group hours;
2) Limit armed security officers to 48 hours of work per week;
3) Only under the following conditions should hours be allowed to increase to 60 per week:

A) Refueling
B) Heightened security alerts

Sincerely,

Danielle Brian
Executive Director


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