Officials with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced Tuesday a three-month investigation at Millstone Nuclear Power Plant in Waterford has found that a contract security guard there failed to follow proper procedures regarding testing weapons used to for the facility’s security and then falsified records to hide what had happened.
The security officer, who Millstone officials say no longer works at the plant, was armorer at the facility, according to Neil Sheehan, a spokesman with the NRC’s Region 1 office, which is located in suburban Philadelphia.
The investigation determined the officer deliberately failed to perform his assigned duties, including being responsible for the accountability, testing and maintenance of weapons used to responded to terrorist attacks. Investigators also found numerous discrepancies on a number of weapons maintenance records from between January 2015 and June 2016, according to Sheehan.
Specifically, the officer indicated in records that test-firing, cleaning or maintenance activities had been performed on weapons. But in reality, the weapons had not been worked on, and in some cases, had not been retrieved from their staged locations.
Sheehan declined to identify the weapons in question out of interest of the plant’s ongoing security. The power plant, which is located along Long Island Sound, is owned by Virginia-based Dominion Energy.
“Suffice it to say, they need to be properly armed in the invent of an attack, especially after 9/11,” he said.” This is not any sort of routine occurrence, he said. “Off hand, I can not recall a similar case having happened in the Northeast (region) and I’ve worked with the NRC for over two decades.”
Ken Holt, a spokesman for the Millstone power plant, said in a statement Dominion officials “take security of our nuclear stations very seriously.”
‘A review of the issue determined that there was no significant impact to nuclear security at Millstone,” the statement said in part. “Dominion Energy participated in the NRC’s Alternative Dispute Resolution process ... to resolve the identified issues, and agreed to a series of actions to prevent recurrence. The results of that process are contained in a confirmatory order which came out today (Tuesday).”
Sheehan said Dominion officials could have agreed to the findings of NRC investigators and not entered into the dispute resolution process, which involves a neutral, third-party mediator.
The contract security officer, according to NRC officials, told investigators that he had been unable to keep up with increasing workload, which led to the decision to not perform required tasks and to falsify related records, Sheehan said.. The contract officer had requested help with the armorer function, which involves inspecting and maintaining weaponry at the facility, the NRC spokesman said.
The security officer told the NRC investigators the weapon maintenance was usually performed at some later point, but he admitted this may not have always happened, Sheehan said.
The NRC spokesman said there is no indication that Millstone does not have adequate staffing levels, he said.
“We require nuclear plants to have certain minimum staffing levels at all times and we’ve no violations on that front. But we’re constantly looking for any violations, any shortcomings, Sheehan said.
The NRC has ordered Dominion to prepare a full inventory of all in-service and out-of-service weapons on-site and the company must notify the regulatory agency within 30 days after that has been completed. Once that happens, NRC officials will conduct another inspection of weapons at the facility, he said.
Millstone officials will also provide the NRC Region I Administrator with a copy of the inventory list and prepare a report of the maintenance status of all in-service weapons that are on-site with specific the dates on which each weapon was test-fired, cleaned, serviced and inspected.
In addition, Sheehan said Dominion is being required to take a number of steps that this problem does not happen again in the future. Part of that requirement includes an organizational effectiveness evaluation of the Millstone security organization.
The company will also share its experiences in this case with the rest of the U.S. nuclear power industry.