Whistleblowers are the key to ensuring the safety of nuclear facilities
Whistleblower protections have been extended in two broad areas of nuclear facility regulation. First, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) regulates commercial nuclear power plants and other uses of nuclear materials, such as in nuclear medicine, through licensing, inspection and enforcement of its requirements. Second, the Department of Energy (DOE) owns laboratories, research and production facilities, and waste sites that involve nuclear materials. Together, the NRC and DOE are our nation’s primary nuclear research and regulatory agencies.
For example, the NRC regulates commercial nuclear power plants that generate electricity. There are currently 99 nuclear power plants licensed to operate in the United States, which generate about 20% of our nation’s electrical use. Employees involved in the construction, operation, maintenance, and oversite of these power plants are protected.
The DOE has 17 research laboratories and 107 cleanup sites throughout the country. DOE describes its cleanup efforts as “the largest environmental cleanup program in the world.” These cleanup operations include the Hanford Site (WA), Idaho National Lab Site, Portsmouth Site (OH), Paducah Site (KY), and Savannah River Site (SC) to name a few. Employees working at these facilities are also protected if they raise safety or other regulatory concerns.
Whistleblowers have played an invaluable role in exposing problems at both NRC and DOE facilities. Although the relationship between whistleblowers and these agencies has been tumultuous over the years, both the NRC and DOE have formally recognized the importance of protecting employees who may have critical information. See, 10 C.F.R. Part 708 (DOE contractor employee protection program); and 10 C.F.R. § 50.7 (NRC employee protection program).
Each of the major federal environmental laws contains an employee protection provision. For the most part, each provision shares a common purpose—to protect whistleblowing employees from retaliation should they seek to have the law properly enforced.
By including these provisions, Congress sought to protect employees who provide information concerning possible violations of environmental standards from retaliation. As there are many thousands of facilities that are subject to environmental requirements, there are insufficient numbers of federal and state regulators to inspect and assess these facilities. Employees are viewed by many as the first line of defense in exposing environmental violations.
If you have been subjected to retaliation for disclosing or stating your intention to disclose information that you believe may reveal violations of any of the laws or regulations referenced above, contact a whistleblower attorney for a free assessment of your case.
 Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) available at: http://www.nrc.gov/about-nrc.html (last viewed 9/25/2015).
 Source: U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) available at: http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/power.html (last viewed 9/25/2015).
 Source: U.S. Department of Energy available at: http://energy.gov/em/cleanup-sites (last viewed 9/25/2015).