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Posted on Thu, Oct. 24, 2002 story:PUB_DESC
Nuclear plant worker files suit
Davis-Besse supervisor is placed on leave after complaint to NRC

Beacon Journal business writer

A supervisor at FirstEnergy's damaged Davis-Besse plant claims he is being disciplined by the Akron utility for raising safety concerns with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Port Clinton resident Timothy Tackett is suing his employer, saying he was placed on a paid leave of absence the day after he complained to the NRC that the company was putting him and others ``under intense schedule pressure'' while publicly proclaiming safety was the top priority.

Tackett said he complained to the NRC last month after delays and problems, including a near electrocution, arose in repairs to the ``polar crane,'' a large device that lifts heavy objects inside the plant's containment chamber, which holds the nuclear reactor.

Tackett, a Davis-Besse employee since 1987, said he was responsible for overseeing the crane project. His lawsuit, filed Friday in Ottawa County Court of Common Pleas, seeks unspecified damages in excess of $25,000.

The lawsuit also alleges that other people had made similar safety-issue complaints to the NRC and that the agency's Office of Investigations would look into the matters.

FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Schneider said the company did not retaliate against Tackett, and even with the outstanding lawsuit he could still return to work after investigations at the plant conclude.

``I can assure you there was no retaliation,'' Schneider said.

The crane project did not meet the company's standards, and the fact that work was halted on the crane so that proper repairs and maintenance could be performed shows that the company is placing safety over schedule, he said.

``Our priority is to do the job right the first time,'' Schneider said.

Davis-Besse managers in a public meeting Sept. 17 with NRC officials in Oak Harbor said repairs and maintenance on the crane had been delayed because of problems.

Maintenance Supervisor Mike Stevens told the NRC that the crane failed his inspection and that it wouldn't be put back into service until new, higher standards were met.

NRC officials criticized plant managers for the crane miscues, saying they should have held workers and supervisors to a higher standard in light of the plant's problems that led to boric acid's damaging the reactor vessel head.

Tackett said that he made his complaints to the NRC's on-site inspector on Sept. 18, and he said that on Sept. 19 his supervisor told him he would be placed on paid leave.

Tackett said one of his superiors told him he probably would be back at work on Sept. 23, but instead has remained on paid leave.

The suit says the safety concerns that Tackett discussed with the NRC were protected under federal and state laws.


Jim Mackinnon can be reached at 330-996-3544 or jmackinnon@thebeaconjournal.com
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