Nuclear safety regulators have proposed a $130,000 civil penalty against Florida Power & Light (FPL) after security contractors at the Turkey Point nuclear power plant were found asleep.
In 2006 an investigation by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) found that security officers employed by the contractor Wackenhut had been "willfully inattentive to duty." The investigation found that on multiple occasions between 2004 and 2006 security officers were willfully inattentive "or served as lookouts so other officers could sleep on duty," said NRC. On one occasion a sleeping security guard was actually observed by an NRC inspector "while on duty at a post in a vital area of the reactor."
|Gas and nuclear power units
at Turkey Point (Image: FPL)
Not surprisingly, these lapses caused FPL to be in violation of security requirements.
Victor McCree, acting administrator of NRC's Region II in which Florida falls, wrote in a letter to FPL that NRC "considers the matter to be a significant security concern." In particular, the agency was concerned by the cooperation of the guards in order that some of them could sleep on duty. This "cannot be tolerated" wrote McCree.
The NRC has issued an immediately effective Confirmation Order to Wackenhut to confirm agreements made during a January Alternative Dispute Resolution mediation session. "Wackenhut agreed to the development and continuation of several initiatives to ensure security officer attentiveness," said NRC adding that the company would also engage in periodic communications with NRC to discuss the status and effectiveness of the initiatives.
This is the second time in a matter of months that NRC has imposed a fine on FPL after bad behaviour by staff provided by Wackenhut. In January, an NRC penalty of $208,000 was imposed after Wackenhut staff decided to remove firing pins from their response weapons at Turkey Point. This was compounded by Wackenhut staff reporting the matter too slowly and then supplying "incomplete and inaccurate" information to NRC investigators.
In December 2007 another nuclear operator, Exelon, decided to replace Wackenhut workers at all ten of its nuclear power plants after a Wackenhut security guard was caught sleeping at the Peach Bottom plant.