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Cracks at Seabrook "Show Need" for Whistleblower Protections in Senate Bill

A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would further protect whistleblowers at Seabrook and other nuclear sites. (Jim Richmond/Wikimedia)
A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would further protect whistleblowers at Seabrook and other nuclear sites. (Jim Richmond/Wikimedia)
September 30, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. – A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Senate that would further protect whistleblowers at Seabrook and other nuclear sites.

Sandra Gavutis, executive director of the C-10 Education and Research Foundation, said whistleblowers need the new proposed protections in New Hampshire. She said that is especially true after the Seabrook power plant filed an application to renew its license, and in the process she said they revealed major flaws at the nuclear power station.

"The first in the entire nuclear fleet in the United States; it is crumbling concrete, which means there are cracks in all of the buildings at Seabrook," she said.

Senate Bill 3394 would cut delays in whistleblower cases. If someone comes forward and nothing is done after six months, they can request a hearing with the U.S. Labor Department. After a year of no action, they can bring their case to federal court. Gavutus said without the new protections, whistleblowers in New England not only get fired, but are then blackballed from any further employment in the nuclear industry.

Jeff Sprung, a Seattle-based attorney who specializes in whistleblower cases, said there's another important provision in the legislation. As it stands now, he said, the public is paying to defend private contractors against people reporting safety concerns. But this bill could change that, putting contractors on the hook for legal costs.

"So that taxpayers aren't footing the bill to defend cases brought by whistleblowers, who are saying, 'Look, we've been retaliated against for trying to tell the public about what's really going on,'" Sprung said.

The Government Accountability Office released a report this summer that said the Department of Energy seldom holds contractors accountable for unlawful retaliation against whistleblowers, and only two violation notices have been issued by the department in the past two decades.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NH