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July 1, 2003

Union releases internal N-plant documents

By JIM McELHATTON Staff Writer, (609) 978-2015

WALL TOWNSHIP - The union representing striking workers at the Oyster Creek Generating Station disclosed on Monday internal company documents that members say raise serious safety concerns at the nation's oldest nuclear power plant.

But plant management questioned the workers' motivation for disclosing the documents three days before a negotiating session and six weeks into a strike. Management said the documents described routine troubleshooting measures that take place at all nuclear power plants.

The disagreement is the latest proof of rising tensions in the ongoing labor dispute.

The union, in a small briefing at their headquarters here Monday, released the documents, called corrective action plans. The documents detail problems in the power plant's radiation surveillance, fire protection and radiation waste units.

Each of the three units is the target of a new management plan to broaden workers' scope of responsibilities, while consolidating positions. The union opposes the plan and cites it as a key reason for the strike.

According to a corrective action plan filed Jan. 20, workers who took over the responsibilities of fire technicians - a three-member unit that was eliminated last year - received too little training.

A management response attached to the corrective action plan on the report disagrees with that assessment.

Another corrective action plan filed Jan. 10, questions whether the plant has sufficient staffing of radiation protection managers.

Management responded to that allegation, saying that one vacant position had been filled and that they plan to add more cyclical training.

In another corrective action plan, which was filed March 25, the state Division of Fire Safety fined the plant after finding a lack of illuminated exit signs.

Management responded saying that previous fire inspectors had allowed for reflective signs.

A plan filed Jan. 3, found operator inexperience and deficient procedures in the plant's radiation waste unit.

Personnel have not "executed operations fundamentals" and failed to "exhibit an appropriate questioning attitude," according to the document.

A management response notes, "All of these issues have been previously identified and are being addressed." Union officials disagreed Monday.

"These things need to be fixed and they're not being addressed," said Ed Stroup, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1289. "The union workers are the plant's last line of defense."

The plant's Nuclear Oversight Committee, a management team that audits operations in the plant, filed the corrective action plans.

Plant spokesman Dave Simon questioned the union's decision to release the documents.

"There is definite motivation in the statements coming from the union in terms of how the plant is being made to look," Simon said.

"We're trying to make some changes in how the plant is being run," Simon said. "We want a safe and effective business enterprise ... but safety always comes first."

Simon said the corrective actions plans are a normal part of running a nuclear power plant. He said such plans are filed at any plant.

Stroup, however, said the documents point to serious safety concerns.

Both sides will get to discuss the issues on Thursday, when talks between Oyster Creek management and labor are scheduled with a state mediator.