Jail sentence for falsification

15 April 2013

An American court has sentenced a former engineering safety manager to 78 months in prison for falsifying information about injuries at three nuclear power plant sites.

Browns Ferry (TVA)_460
Browns Ferry, one of the sites where injuries were misreported (Image: TVA)

Walter Cardin was convicted by a federal grand jury of eight counts of major fraud against the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), a US government corporation, November 2012. The offences were committed over a period from 2004 to 2006. Cardin was convicted of providing false information by under-reporting the number of injuries and their severities.

At the time of the offences, Shaw Group subsidiary Stone & Webster Construction had been contracted by the TVA to provide maintenance and modification services at the Browns Ferry, Sequoyah and Watts Bar nuclear sites, including construction work for the 2007 restart of Browns Ferry 1. As safety manager for Stone & Webster, Cardin had provided false and misleading information about worker injuries at the facilities. The false injury rates had then been used by Stone & Webster to collect safety bonuses of over $2.5 million from TVA. Stone & Webster paid back some $6.2 million to the USA as part of a civil settlement over the false claims and contract fraud in early 2009.

During the trial, evidence was presented covering over 80 injuries that were not properly recorded by Cardin. According to a statement from the US Department of Justice, evidence had also shown that Cardin had "intentionally misrepresented or simply lied" about how the injuries had occurred and their severity. Some employees testified that they had been denied or delayed proper medical treatment as a result of Cardin's actions.

The severity of Cardin's sentence was increased by US District Judge Curtis Collier after finding that Cardin had obstructed the course of justice in the trial. Cardin had denied intentionally misclassifying injuries and knowing that safety bonuses were tied to his classifications of injuries, although investigators found evidence of emails confirming that this was not the case.

The case is the culmination of a six-year investigation by TVA's statutory watchdog, the TVA Office of Inspector General (TVA-OIG). US attorney for Eastern Tennessee William Killian commended the efforts of TVA-OIG investigators, who reviewed over 500,000 documents and interviewed hundreds of witnesses as part of the investigation. As well as the monetary losses to TVA, Killian noted the wider implications of the fraud. "The defendant’s practices affected the safety of the work environment of nuclear sites. They resulted in employees becoming more reluctant to report injuries, employers failing to address safety issues on the work sites, and employees working through medical conditions that created risks of additional injuries to themselves and others. We will continue to vigilantly guard against unsafe work environments, as well as waste, fraud, and abuse of government funds," he promised.

Shaw Group has now been acquired by the Chicago Bridge & Iron Company (CB&I) in a transaction completed in February 2013.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News