Environment News Service

FEDERAL AGENCIES MOVE TO PROTECT NUCLEAR WHISTLEBLOWERS

WASHINGTON, DC, March 21, 2000 (ENS) - The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Department of Labor have jointly submitted a proposal to Congress to help protect nuclear industry whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. The agencies propose to amend the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 to further protect nuclear industry employees who raise safety issues with their employers or the NRC by providing them with earlier relief. The proposed language would strengthen a section of the Act that provides a process under which whistleblowers who believe they have been discriminated against for raising safety concerns may seek reinstatement to their former position, or another remedy. The Department of Labor has responsibility for administering this section of the Act.

In a letter proposing the legislative changes, Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and NRC Chairman Richard Meserve said that the language would address shortcomings in the current law that weaken the protections given to nuclear industry employees who report safety concerns. The language would "revise section 211 by setting more realistic time limits for steps in the adjudicatory process and specifying explicit time frames for steps for which no time limits are currently provided. It would also provide a clearer description of the procedural steps that are involved, giving parties better notice of how the process works. The bill would afford more timely relief to complainants by providing for a preliminary order of reinstatement of the complainant, if the Secretary of Labor determines at the conclusion of the investigation conducted at the outset of the process that a violation has occurred."

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