Nukewatch Quarterly Fall 2021
By John LaForge
Federal investigators have confirmed that they are probing allegations that counterfeit, substandard parts are currently being used in scores of nuclear reactors across the United States, and, further, that emergency responders in New Hampshire’s National Guard and the Massachusetts State Police have been gagged by orders not to reveal that it is impossible to conduct a safe evacuation of the Seabrook reactor during an emergency.
In a January 15, 2021 email to We the People — a whistle-blower protection group in Rowley, Mass. — Malion Bartley, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) Deputy Assistant Inspector General for Investigations, wrote that his office “has an open investigation and is reviewing the concerns you provided and your supporting documents.” Bartley’s email, made public only recently, follows a December 14, 2020 letter in which Bartley confirmed, “The Office of the Inspector General, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), is reviewing your allegation regarding counterfeit and substitute parts in nuclear plants around the United States.”
For over 35 years, We the People has demanded an investigation into the whistle-blower declarations that reactor manufacturers have installed counterfeit, substandard parts in reactors across the country. The allegations are based on tape recorded conversations with several nuclear industry and NRC whistle-blowers. Mr. Bartley’s December 14 letter insists that We the People provide the OIG with personal contact information for the whistle-blowers who are being protected by We the People. The industry insiders have divulged to the group’s director, Stephen Comley, the sorts and locations of the fake parts that he says currently endanger the operations of the entire fleet of nuclear reactors in the United States.
Comley replied to the Inspector General’s office that because protection of the nuclear whistle-blowers is paramount, he needs guarantees from the NRC and OIG that no retaliation will be taken against them. We the People has refused to reveal any whistleblower’s identity to the OIG unless the courageous informants give their permission.
The OIG’s Senior Special Agent William Johnson then wrote an email to We the People on December 17, 2020, complaining that his office was “disappointed that you are choosing not to provide said requested information unless certain conditions you insist upon are met by our office.”
The Christian Science Monitor reported in 1994 that the NRC had regularly retaliated against agency whistle-blowers who warned of unsafe operations. (“Whistle-Blowers on Safety Risks Betrayed by Nuclear Agency,” July 29, 1994) “NRC officials were turning over whistle-blowers’ identities to one of the nation’s largest utilities, the Tennessee Valley Authority” in violation of federal policy, the Monitor reported. The article noted that whistle-blowers “are a major source of vital information about safety risks at nuclear power stations” and that “the NRC is frequently charged by safety advocates with being too cozy with the multibillion-dollar nuclear industry.”
On August 26, 2021, special agent Johnson again wrote in an email to Comley that OIG’s “Report will be completed by the end of September 2021.” On Sept. 13, 2021, Johnson emailed, “Please forward to the OIG the contact information for these additional state troopers that you say you spoke with. … They are in law enforcement, and the NRC OIG is a law enforcement agency. We can be trusted.” After sharing his agency contact information, Johnson wrote, “I look forward to talking to these other state troopers who will confirm your allegation that no safe evacuation of Seabrook Station would be possible in an emergency.” The use of bogus equipment inside operating reactors, and a failed evacuation during a reactor accident, raise both the chances and the consequences of a disaster at reactors across the country and particularly at Seabrook, located on the New Hampshire seacoast 40 miles north of Boston.
We the People is waiting to hear whether its precautionary guarantees — ensuring the anonymity and personal security of its whistle-blowers — will be granted by the OIG. ###