Safety Officer Fired From Nuclear Power Plant For Being Safe
Recently, I wrote about a problem with nuclear power. Very few people read it before attacking it. They assumed I was simply ignorant of the science of nuclear power and how safe it actually is. The actual point I was making wasn’t that the technology itself was dangerous, it was that the people running the power plants were. Greed will win out in the end and the ramifications are immense should a nuclear power plant experience a significant “event.”
Meet Mark W. Hicks. Mr. Hicks was a safety manager at two Florida Power & Light Co. nuclear power plants. He’d spent 20 years in the United States Navy in their nuclear program and during his first year at FPL, he found a serious leak.
”In fact, the same type of coolant leak that Hicks observed at the St. Lucie power plant was what caused the partial nuclear core meltdown on March 28, 1979, known as the Three Mile Island Accident, in Middletown, Pennsylvania, which was the worst nuclear accident in U.S. commercial nuclear power plant history [...]
“Due to the need to protect the public and FPL employees, Hicks immediately directed his operations shift manager to cease startup of the reactor, to shut it down, and to begin a cool down of the reactor, so that his team could repair the leaky valve.”
Mr. Hicks was not only in compliance with federal law but also the safety regulations of FPL itself. Courthousenews goes on:
“Following protocol, Hicks reported to the head of the Nuclear Power Division of FPL and the Executive Vice President of FPL Manoochehr Nazar, who then shockingly and recklessly insisted that Hicks start up the reactor.
“Despite Hicks’ evaluation of the situation, the obvious safety concerns, and the clear legal requirements which dictated that Hicks and FPL shut down the reactor, Nazar ordered Hicks to sign off on starting up the reactor without repairing the valves.”
Mr. Hicks proceeded to ignore Mr. Nazat and shut it down anyway. This ended up costing the company $6 million in lost revenue and repairs, which were extensive. It turns out that there were several pipes and pumps that had been installed incorrectly and the entire reactor was essentially a ticking time bomb. Mr. Hicks did what was legally required to spare not only the surrounding population from the devastating effects of radiation poisoning but, Mr. Hicks contends, he also saved the company from the massive lawsuit and bad press that would have inevitably resulted from the inevitable “incident.”
For his efforts, Mr. Hicks was fired.
And this is why nuclear power is insanely dangerous. The powers-that-be at FPL apparently concluded that the fine and lawsuit would cost less than the lost revenue or that it was worth the gamble that the inevitable “incident” wouldn’t occur until after they had left the company, thus making it someone else’s problem. Either way, they couldn’t allow employees to get the idea that laws and regulations take precedence over executive decisions to endanger lives.
It doesn’t matter how safe nuclear technology is. It will never matter how safe nuclear technology is. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link and human greed and corruption are among the most corrosive forces in the universe. Every nuclear power plant run by the private sector for a profit is a disaster waiting to happen as corners are cut, regulations are ignored, and profits are placed before everything. If corporations are “people,” they are amoral people and cannot be trusted not to kill thousands in the pursuit of a few extra dollars. History has shown this time and again. Nationalize the nuclear power industry–or shut it down.
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