Remarks by Dr. Nancy Kymn Harvin
NJPIRG Press Conference
January 17, 2005
As Suzanne said, I’m Dr. Nancy Kymn Harvin. I’m the senior manager from PSEG Nuclear who was fired in 2003 after I reported safety and work environment issues to the President and Chairman of the Board. I have chosen to speak out, to become a “whistleblower,” only because PSEG officers refused to admit these issues, much less resolve them. So, I turned to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the fall of 2003.
Initially the NRC was very interested in what I had to say. I was told the agency had long-standing concerns about Salem and Hope Creek and an “insider” coming forward was just what the regulators needed. I was told I had done the right thing by speaking out, though I lost nearly every friend I had in the nuclear industry. When I was told my allegations would be Region I’s top priority, I was relieved. I thought the safety equipment and culture issues would finally get resolved. I thought retaliatory firings like mine and the chilled work environment would end. I believed that the good people at Salem and Hope Creek would now have government support for the safe and healthy workplace they deserve.
That was 16 months ago. I regret to report to you that my faith in the NRC and its inspectors and investigators has diminished over time. All too often, especially when it has come to equipment issues and safety systems, the NRC in Region 1 has turned a blind eye. The regulators have ignored or rationalized away nuclear safety concerns voiced by Salem and Hope Creek employees, have minimized assessments that rated 72 of 90 critical areas “less than competent,” and refused to take action against the utility without external pressure.
In fact, the NRC’s first letter to PSEG occurred on January 28, 2004, only after word reached top Commissioners that current workers were prepared to go on “60 Minutes” to bring attention to their nuclear safety concerns. These workers had lost faith in both the company and the regulators.
The NRC’s credibility hit an all-time low last week when it authorized the restart of the Hope Creek reactor, despite problems with the “B” recirculation pump. Instead of putting Safety First, PSEG and Exelon told the NRC that “for business reasons” they would replace the bent pump shaft in the spring of 2006.
Unbelievably, the NRC endorsed their plan that puts profits before public safety.
And the NRC did so against the objections of the NJ Dept. of Environmental Protection, Senators Biden and Carper and Representative Castle from DE, numerous editorials and front page reports in the New York Times, Wilmington News Journal, Press of Atlantic City, Philadelphia Inquirer and elsewhere, and over objections by 111 public interest and watchdog groups.
What makes this “chilling,” as I said last week when I called for the resignations of numerous regulators, is the messages the NRC’s decision sends. It says:
Ø Utilities do not have to put public safety first.
Ø Utilities do not have to fix long-standing equipment problems.
Ø Utilities do not have to make “conservative” decisions favoring safety over
Ø Utilities can burden operators with equipment that could knowingly blow up unexpectedly and cause a meltdown if everything doesn’t go right.
Ø Utilities don’t have to prudently respond to safety concerns…because the NRC does not.
What makes this decision outrageous, disgraceful, and a travesty is that the NRC has put total responsibility for public safety on the shoulders of the Hope Creek licensed operators. The NRC, supposedly their champion, has made their jobs harder and more dangerous.
In addition, the public’s best efforts to intervene and convince the NRC otherwise, were ignored, placated, and minimized.
Simply put, what PSEG and Exelon wanted mattered more to the regulators than the public’s safety concerns. The NRC, once again, turned a blind eye.
The utilities won. Public safety lost. The NRC showed its true colors.
The Philadelphia Inquirer’s editorial yesterday said it best:
Hope Creek needs to be the place where the NRC rededicates itself to its safety mission.
But unless the NRC intervenes in the next 24 or so hours, it will be too late to prevent Hope Creek from restarting. And the NRC does not have the backbone to reverse its decision, even though it clearly should.
Exelon could save the day, however. It takes over operation at Salem and Hope Creek today under a management contract. Exelon could prove safety is top priority by choosing to not restart Hope Creek and choosing to replace the B recirculation pump shaft instead.
But that isn’t likely either. Without having all the facts, Exelon publicly supported deferring the pump replacement until 2006. But maybe, just maybe, like any good leader who changes course when he or she receives new and definitive information, PSEG’s Chief Nuclear Officer from Exelon, Bill Levis, could be a hero on his first day in office. He could prove Safety is First. He could prove he listens to employee and public concerns. He could prove this is a “new and improved” Exelon that has learned from past mistakes and wants a clean start at Salem and Hope Creek.
Bill Levis has the power to prove he is a Leader Worth Following.
Mr. Levis, I urge you to take bold, courageous action. Break new ground for the industry and the public. Surprise everyone. Do what no one thinks you will do: Postpone Hope Creek’s restart until the B recirculation pump shaft is replaced. Let everyone know—by your actions, not your words—that Safety truly is top priority.