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Whistle-Blowers on Safety Risks Betrayed by Nuclear Agency

In a Monitor exclusive, the NRC admits it told TVA utility the names of employees who warned of problems at atomic plants

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THE Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) - watchdog of America's nuclear power industry - has routinely blown the cover of whistle-blowers who revealed safety problems at nuclear plants.

An investigation by the NRC's inspector general has discovered that NRC officials were turning over whistle-blowers' identities to one of the nation's largest utilities, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The NRC regulators' actions violated federal policy protecting whistle-blowers, who are a major source of vital information about safety risks at nuclear power stations across the United States.

The inspector general's revelation could seriously erode public confidence in the NRC, which is frequently charged by safety advocates with being too cozy with the multibillion-dollar nuclear industry.

David Williams, the NRC inspector general, says the regulatory agency failed to abide by a formal memorandum of understanding between NRC and TVA's Office of Inspector General (TVA-OIG). The memorandum requires that whistle-blower names be concealed unless individuals personally waive their confidentiality.

In a report marked ``Official Use Only'' obtained by the Monitor, Mr. Williams wrote that the NRC Office of Investigations disclosed to TVA-OIG - ``without the individuals' consent or knowledge - identities of allegers who believed their identities would be held confidential.''

After turning names over to TVA-OIG, the NRC also failed to follow through to make sure safety problems cited by whistle-blowers were properly investigated and corrected, Williams found.

Stephen Comley, founder of We the People Inc., a nuclear whistle-blower protection organization in Rowley, Mass., says he was not surprised by the inspector general's report.

He says: ``[This is] just a small underbelly of what's been going on inside the agency for years. Now we have, in writing, what all of us have suspected for so long.

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