PG&E Calls Nuke Worker/Whistleblower Mentally Ill : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

In the Sacramento Bee today Nov23 is an article about a Diablo Canyon worker who sent out a critique of safety at the plant. PG&E gave him a mental health test as per the law and found him unstabile, laid him off. The courts hae found against the utility, PG&E will appeal. This does not appear to be on the on-line edition of the BEE, didn't find it, but I may have overlooked it. If someone can't locate and post address I'll type some in at a later post.

-- johno (, November 23, 1999


Attempting to link it here...

Click here for story

-- Lurker (, November 23, 1999.

WOW, sounds like the China Syndrome. Great movie.

-- (, November 23, 1999.

U.S. probe backs nuclear worker in PG&E dispute

By Carrie Peyton, Bee Staff Writer, (Published Nov. 23, 1999)

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. tried to force out a worker who had complained about nuclear plant safety by having him labeled mentally ill, the U.S. Labor Department has concluded after a yearlong investigation.

The utility should pay Neil J. Aiken more than $70,000 in lost wages and damages and should keep him employed at the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant near San Luis Obispo until his fitness can be independently evaluated, the department found.

PG&E denies breaking any laws and will appeal the finding, seeking a full hearing before an administrative law judge, said spokesman Jeff Lewis.

Aiken has been on leave since June 1998, two months after giving PG&E shareholders a report he titled "Going Critical" about safety issues at the plant.

His attorneys contend that the utility -- using a legal requirement that it make sure all nuclear workers are psychologically sound -- arranged mental exams that pronounced Aiken delusional.

"It's like a Soviet mock-examination. You're mentally ill because you have a difference of opinion about important affairs," said attorney Bob Seldon, whose Project on Liberty and the Workplace, an advocacy group for workers' rights, is helping represent Aiken.

In a letter to Aiken on Friday, the Labor Department wrote that evidence indicates PG&E "provided biased and incomplete information to a series of medical professionals in their effort to remove you from the plant to stop your engagement in activities protected under the Energy Reorganization Act."

Those activities included raising nuclear safety issues.

But PG&E's Lewis contends that "at all times, we acted in full compliance with the laws and regulations and consistent with our obligation to protect the safety of the public."

He stressed that one month ago, the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission concluded there had been no retaliation against Aiken. The NRC interviewed more than 80 people during its yearlong probe.

Aiken, a Diablo Canyon worker since 1974 and an operations shift foreman for 14 years, has criticized the plant's testing procedures, safety reporting, circuit breaker performance and other issues.

Of the roughly 50 concerns he has raised with federal regulators, 38 percent were substantiated -- slightly more than the nationwide percentage of all nuclear worker complaints found valid, according to the NRC. As a result, the NRC issued two low-level violation notices against PG&E last year.

Aiken sued PG&E in San Francisco Superior Court in August, alleging retaliation, infringement of free speech and other misconduct, and seeking at least $10 million in damages. That suit is still pending, and Aiken's lawyers plan to ask the court to prevent PG&E from firing him, which it has said it will do on Dec. 13.

Although he has been on paid leave at his base salary, the Labor Department ordered PG&E to pay about $37,000 in lost overtime, salary increases and special premiums, and $35,000 in damages.

-- messy to be a whistleblower (, November 23, 1999.

It's gonna be bad.

This seems to illustrate how a plant may try to pressure workers to keep material dangerous to the plant hidden from authorities.

How would other safety issues be affected? What measures would an entity take to keep their personnel from coming forward?

This sucks. I hope all nukes worldwide are forced to stand down at the rollover. Why take a risk?



-- Michael (, November 23, 1999.

This isn't the first time this type of thing has happened.

It isn't the second. Or third. Or fourth. (Anyone remember Karen Silkwood?) Some of these ruthless business bastards make Joe Stalin look positively benevolent, by comparison.

This is what our society has come to. If you don't agree with the "party line", you've got an aberrant personality and are obviously mentally incompetent.

-- Nom (nom@de.plume), November 23, 1999.

How will workers at other plants respond to this? You think they will be willing to put up with this kind of treatment to air their safety concerns? Not likely. So even though this guy gets his job back the *message* got out loud and clear.

-- wondering (wondering@nottoo.far), November 23, 1999.

PG&E's action against the whistleblower is a typical response by big business/government in California. If you get them mad for any reason, they send you to a headshrinker (theirs) and label you "mentally ill," and require you to get therapy as a condition of continuing employment.

Otherwise they fire and blacklist you.

-- hunter (way@up.north), November 23, 1999.

Consider that the NRC itself seems somewhat reluctant to slap the wrists of the utilities, and at the end of a YEAR LONG investigation decided that there had been no retaliation against Aiken (who was only laid off and labeled delusional). Finally the NRC issued 2 (two) low level violation notices against PG&E, even though 30 complaints were "substantiated". What this says about PG&E is bad enough, but what about what it says about the NRC?

See also this thread: Potential Nuclear Power Plant meltdown, Is it going to happen?

-- Linda (, November 23, 1999.

And it's amazing how many threads have been started on this forum of the form, "Look, if Y2K is so bad and we are in so much danger, where are the WHISTLEBLOWERS who surely would be warning us by now?". Next time you hear such a ridiculous question, think about the above article.

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), November 23, 1999.

Agree w/KOS. Remember Erin.

-- Nom (nom@de.plume), November 23, 1999.

Go see "The Insider," the movie about the tabacco industry whistleblower. I saw it recently, and it ended any questions about why more do not come forward.

-- Ashton (, November 23, 1999.

This is the corporate equivalent of what happens when you try to warn another person of the potential dangers of Y2K. They just think you're nuts.

-- Clyde (, November 23, 1999.

Another good example of why blowing the whistle is a waste of time and sometimes very dangerous to the whistle blower is the leak of nuke secrets from Los Alamos this year.

If you recall, when the congress was investigating it, they held a news conference early on and announced their decision to look for places/people to scrutinize other than the organization that manages the Los Alamos lab, and others: the University of California. That cow is just too sacred to shine the bright light of a congressional investigation onto.

All too often these days, the blame can't be limited to just one or maybe two institutions. The scum spreads into all the pores of the collective sponge of collusion.

-- hunter (way@up.north), November 23, 1999.

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