NRC says Wolf Creek has improved ‘chilling’ work environment

Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating has adequately addressed “safety conscious work environment concerns” at the Wolf Creek nuclear plant near Burlington, Kan., the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) said April 8.

NRC noted the nuclear plant operator’s progress in a letter to the facility.

Wolf Creek is a roughly 1,200 MW pressurized water reactor (PWR) located in Burlington, Kan. Wolf Creek Nuclear Operating is jointly owned by Westar Energy (NYSE:WR), Great Plains Energy (NYSE:GXP) subsidiary Kansas City Power & Light (KCP&L) and Kansas Electric Power Cooperative.

Almost two years earlier, the NRC had issued the operator a “chilling effect letter” following identification of two safety culture concerns. NRC had said that company actions reported in 2013 could have a “chilling” effect on employees raising workplace concerns in the future.

First, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety & Health Administration issued a discrimination finding to Enercon, a contractor, for firing a worker who raised concerns with how work was being performed at the plant. The NRC determined that the firing might affect the willingness of other workers to raise safety concerns on safety-related work at the plant.

Second, NRC found that a chilled work environment existed within the plant’s quality assurance group that performs audits of safety-related work. A chilled work environment is one in which workers are hesitant to raise safety concerns for fear of retaliation. In response to the NRC’s chilling effect letter, WCNOC officials implemented a range of corrective actions and conducted safety culture surveys at the site to assess the effectiveness of those actions, which yielded positive results.

NRC is apparently now satisfied that new site-wide programs aimed at improving the work environment have been successful in addressing the issues that led to a chilled work environment.

NRC also issued a letter to Enercon saying the contract company has successfully implemented corrective actions to ensure workers feel free to raise concerns without fear of retaliation.

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.