The San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station sits on the heavily populated shores of Southern California. Any nuclear disaster at the station would affect over 8 million people within 50 miles. Up until it was decommissioned a few years ago, workers at the San Onofre power plant voiced more safety complaints to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) about that plant than any other nuclear plant in the country.
The NRC – an independent government agency that oversees commercial nuclear power plants – revealed in 2010 that workers at the San Onofre plant did not feel free to report safety concerns internally over fear of being retaliated against. The same year, a San Onofre plant worker-turned-whistleblower claimed he was fired after raising concerns to his superiors about a design flaw inside the plant’s steam generators. The whistleblower’s name is Paul Diaz and the flaw he pointed out could have resulted in catastrophe.
“We need more whistleblowers, not fewer.” – Congresswoman Jackie Speier
At the time he came forward, Diaz was not afforded whistleblower protection because the power plant sits on federal land that was ceded to Southern California Edison in the 1960′s. Diaz’s whistleblower complaint against the plant and Southern California Edison caught the attention of California lawmakers like Congresswoman Jackie Speier. Congresswoman Speier, long an advocate for whistleblowers, recently proposed an amendment to the Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act of 2015 which clarifies that the Department of Energy “must protect non-federal employee whistleblowers from retaliation.” The amendment was passed recently according to a press release from her office in Washington.
“The Department of Energy has allowed its contactors to stifle whistleblowers through illegal workplace secrecy agreements and taxpayer-funded lawsuits to the detriment of taxpayers, said Congresswoman Speier in a statement. Without whistleblowers at the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station in California there could have been a Fukushima-like meltdown.”
“By preventing workers from reporting health and safety violations, the DOE is jeopardizing billions of taxpayer dollars and the public’s safety. The stakes at these facilities, which handle some of the most dangerous materials on earth, are far too high for this kind of bad practice.”
The whistleblower attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman applaud Congresswoman Speier for her efforts to broaden protection for non-federal whistleblowers that come forward with information concerning safety violations, waste, fraud and abuse. These brave men and women are performing a vital public service for all of us and they should be praised and rewarded, not threatened.