NRC to amend whistleblower rules

1 February 2006

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is proposing to amend its employee protection regulations to impose fines on contractors and subcontractors if they discriminate against employees for engaging in "protected activities" such as providing information to the NRC or the employer about alleged violations of the Atomic Energy Act or the Energy Reorganization Act.

The amendments would also allow the NRC to impose a fine on USEC, as well as a contractor or subcontractor of USEC, if it discriminated against an employee for engaging in protected activities.

The commission's current employee protection regulations prohibit discrimination by those holding an NRC licence for use of nuclear material, an applicant for a commission licence, a holder or an applicant for a certificate of compliance, or a contractor or subcontractor of these entities. While these regulations prohibit discrimination by a contractor or subcontractor, they do not explicitly provide for imposition of a fine.

"The activities of contractors and subcontractors can clearly affect the safe operation of a licensed facility, such as a nuclear power plant," said Mike Johnson, director of the NRC Office of Enforcement. "It is important that the commission be able to bring the full scope of enforcement actions to bear on them if they demote, terminate or otherwise discriminate against their employees for raising safety concerns."

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