Monday, September 24, 2007

Exelon Terminates Wackenhut Security Contract at Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant

By now, I'm sure most of you have seen the news that NRC has sent a team to Exelon's Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant to investigate allegations that security personnel at the plant had been "inattentive" while on duty. That news followed items in the press from last week that one or more security guards had been caught on videotape sleeping on the job -- footage of which will reportedly be shown tonight on WCBS-TV in New York.

Earlier this afternoon, Exelon announced that it had completed its own internal investigation, and that it was terminating Wackenhut's contract to manage security forces at Peach Bottom Nuclear Power Plant effective immediately.

The following is the complete text from an Exelon press announcement:

Exelon Nuclear today gave Wackenhut Nuclear Security notice that it will terminate its contract to manage security forces at the Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station. This follows an internal investigation in connection with Wackenhut security officers being videotaped sleeping or otherwise inattentive in a station ready room, the company announced today.

“This is not acceptable and we will not tolerate it,” said Exelon Generation Chief Operating Officer Chris Crane. “I want to be clear that nothing has happened at Peach Bottom that represents a security or safety threat to the public. We are dealing with unacceptable behavior, and we will fix it.”

While the most prominent step is removing Wackenhut at Peach Bottom, “we have taken and will take additional measures to prevent this from recurring,” Crane said.
A broad review of security management by Wackenhut is underway at all of Exelon Nuclear’s 10 operating nuclear energy sites. At Peach Bottom, employees are being informed of the decision and related changes.

“We have a high level of confidence in the vast majority of the security forces who guard our plants,” Crane said. “These are well-trained, dedicated security professionals. Our immediate concern is with how they are managed and the performance standards they are asked to meet.”

Exelon is cooperating with the NRC in the matter and has brought in outside experts to participate in the internal investigation, which began immediately after the company received its first information about the inattentive officers.

The video images of inattentive officers were taken in what is known as a “ready room,” or assembly room, a secured location within Peach Bottom where they are allowed to read, study, eat or relax but remain ready to respond to a plant location if called upon. It is used as a break room at certain times. The videos appear to have been taken two to six months ago.

The videos that Exelon officials viewed showed security officers in the assembly room nodding off or sleeping, which is not allowed at any time. The inattentive officers were sitting in chairs.

“It is important for us to emphasize again that the actions we have seen on the videotape and found in our internal inquiry did not directly impact the safety and security of the plant,” Crane said. “However, we will not accept, we will not allow, any member of our security force to be anything other than fully alert at all times on duty. This is a long-standing and well-understood principle on which we will never compromise.”

Exelon Nuclear has procedures and guidelines in place to prevent inattentiveness among its security forces, which protect nuclear stations 24 hours a day. Work hours are carefully monitored to prevent fatigue. In addition, officers are regularly rotated among stations and must check in with a supervisor regularly.

Exelon Nuclear will has begun transitioning security forces at the plant to a new Exelon-owned security subsidiary, which will manage Peach Bottom security.
For more on plant security, click here for information from NEI's Web site. For more details on the termination, visit the Philadelphia Inquirer.


Ed said...

A new Exelon-owned security subsidiary? hmmmm

Is it possible Exelon just wanted a quick out from the existing Wackenhut contract?

How did a video camera get inside the facility, tape security personnel and get back out again? Were the guards at the X-ray machines, metal detectors, turnstiles etc. asleep as well?

Anonymous said...

Oh Lord, this is all we need now! Never have been impressed with Wackenhut. Yes, there are many fine security people with Wackenhut, but I think that organization has problems.

Anonymous said...

I understand the concerns about negative publicity, but this is a case where a problem was uncovered and dealt with, correctly and decisively. That is how the system is supposed to work. You fix things you discover to be wrong and work to assure there is not a repeat incident. That is what the licensee has done and is doing. I agree it would have been better not to have happened at all, but it did, and they had to deal with it. They did so.

Ryan said...

There seems to be a measurable difference between "in-house" security employees and contract workers. In my observation, employees of a contractor usually get less pay and benefits then in-house and are treated with less respect. Perhaps the NRC should look into mandating better control from the licensee.

Pamela said...

"How did a video camera get inside the facility, tape security personnel and get back out again? "

Because video cameras and regular cameras are allowed (at least at our plant), with the proper permissions.

Anonymous said...

"How did a video camera get inside the facility, tape security personnel and get back out again?"

can you say, "cell phone"?

Anonymous said...

"but this is a case where a problem was uncovered and dealt with, correctly and decisively."

Are you kidding?

It took a whistleblower, who had been shut down when he raised his concerns months earlier through normal channels at the plant, contacting a TV reporter, who took the matter to NRC.

How is that dealing with the matter "correctly"?

Anonymous said...

The articles posted say the tape was taken by a Wackenhut employee. Based on the available information the licensee did an internal investigation, and based on that, took action. So it was dealt with correctly and decisively. Changes were made as a result of unsatisfactory performance. There was no attempt to cover up the shortfall in performance. I can see how you'd have a valid ax to grind if they did that, but they didn't. The licensee did the right thing. Why should we hammer them for doing the right thing?

Anonymous said...

No, you're way off. The Wackenhut employee did not make the videotapes as part of an internal investigation by management. He made them because his supervisors wouldn't listen to his allegations and refused to launch an investigation. That's why he had to go public.

As for the investigations, both Exelon and Wackenhut launched theirs AFTER the whistleblower went public, and they're still underway.

Anonymous said...

A video camera did not get inside the plant. The video was recorded off a cellphone with video capabilities...duh