Markey queries NRC about safety culture investigation, inadequate response to lawmaker

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today demanded the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) provide materials the lawmaker has repeatedly requested in his investigation of allegations that an individual in NRC’s Region IV office engaged in efforts to thwart and discourage aggressive nuclear safety oversight in violation of published safety culture policy.

Rep. Markey has been leading an investigation into alleged problems with the safety culture at some NRC regional offices that have resulted in retaliation against staff who disclose safety concerns amid a workplace environment that is not consistent with NRC’s directive that it “encourages all employees and contractors to promptly speak up and share concerns and differing views without fear of negative consequences”. Whistleblowers last month contacted Rep. Markey’s office for a third time to reveal that the NRC had not even requested that they search for documents requested by the lawmaker, despite NRC’s written assurances otherwise. They also stated that the NRC’s “dismissive response [to the Congressman’s letter] fails to adequately address the pervasive underlying safety culture issues identified by the NRC’s staff.” The whistleblowers again communicated their lack of trust in the NRC Inspector General (IG) to conduct a thorough investigation into allegations related to the safety culture at Region IV. Rep. Markey repeated his call on the NRC to engage an independent contractor to evaluate alleged Region IV problems.

“Both the NRC and its Inspector General seem either unwilling or opposed to conducting a full assessment of alleged issues with Region IV’s safety culture,” said Rep. Markey, senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. “The allegations made against Region IV management are of the utmost seriousness and demand a full assessment and a more forthcoming response to my requests for documentation in order to ensure the NRC’s commitment to instituting and upholding a robust safety culture and safe work environment.”

Rep. Markey wrote to the NRC in both May and June about after whistleblowers contacted his office with a series of troubling allegations that the current Deputy Division Director of the Division of Reactor Projects in NRC’s Texas-based Region IV office has actively retaliated against individuals who bring safety concerns to his attention. Additional allegations included alteration of safety findings in inspection reports, openly criticizing and denigrating professional staff who brought forward inspection findings that he did not agree with, downgrading performance appraisals for staff who identified violations, and attempting to interfere with safety findings at the Fort Calhoun Station in Nebraska.