Criminal planning gets ex-nuclear plant employees banned

Two former employees of the Exelon (NYSE:EXC) Dresden plant in Illinois who evidently planned to rob an armored car, have been banned by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) from working in the nuclear industry.

NRC announced a confirmatory order to Exelon Generation Oct. 28 for one incident involving violations of the Behavioral Observation Program at the Dresden station, while also announcing the ban against the former employees.

The NRC investigated the incident in which senior reactor operator Michael J. Buhrman, planned to rob an armored car and recruited the assistance of another senior reactor operator, Landon E. Brittain. The plan was not carried out. However, Buhrman was apprehended for aggravated vehicular carjacking and fled the country after being released on bail. He was tried and sentenced in absentia. Brittain has a number of criminal charges pending against him.

Buhrman disappeared in September 2012, according to the Free Press newspapers. Buhrman evidently fled after removing a court-mandated GPS monitoring devise.

The NRC concluded that Buhrman’s and Brittain’s actions while offsite demonstrated they could not be relied upon to adhere to NRC requirements to protect plant and public safety. In addition, Dresden personnel who knew about Buhrman’s plan to commit an offsite crime failed to report the situation to plant management, which is an NRC requirement for workers who have unescorted access to the plant.

“We expect nuclear workers to be trustworthy and feel responsible for plant safety. This includes alerting management should they encounter questionable behavior in other workers. Plants must have effective programs and training to make sure employees adhere to these standards,” said NRC Region III Administrator Cynthia D. Pederson. “The incident at Dresden shows a failure to adhere to NRC requirements. This situation was unusual; we do not normally encounter this type of egregious behavior in plant workers. For this reason, the NRC has taken strong regulatory action against the individuals involved and the plant. Exelon is taking steps to address the problem and we will evaluate their effectiveness going forward.”

The confirmatory order to Exelon was issued as a result of the Alternative Dispute Resolution process, which uses a mediator to assist the NRC and a licensee to reach an agreement for a more effective use of the enforcement process.

 Dresden is a two-unit boiling water reactor (BWR) plant with a summer generating capacity of roughly 1,700 MW. Dresden is located in Morris, Ill., 25 miles southwest of Joliet.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.