Complaint to NC Attorney General, FBI, NRC Inspector General, NRC Office of Security and Incident Response
December 13, 2005
Union of Concerned Scientists
NC Waste Awareness and Reduction Network
NC WARN and UCS have been made aware of very serious allegations about security problems at Progress Energy’s Shearon Harris nuclear plant. We are unable to independently confirm or refute these allegations, but their extent and depth warrant prompt investigation by appropriate state and/or federal authorities. If even one of these allegations is substantiated, it means the people of North Carolina are exposed to an unnecessarily heightened threat level. [All text in quotation marks comes from one or more guards who came forward as
whistleblowers] Widespread cheating on state security certification exams It is widely known among the Harris security force personnel (SFP) that Securitas/Progress tries to force SFP to cheat on annual testing for state certification required by the NC Private Protection Services Board (PPSB), part of the NC Dept. of Justice. Passing this AOJ test (Ability, Opportunity, and Jeopardy) is crucial to determining whether an individual is qualified to defend the plant. Recertification is required annually.
When SFP take the tests, which Securitas is allowed to administer itself at the plant, they are forced by Securitas supervisors to take the answer keys into the testing area. Many SFP do not use the answers, but they are still required to accept the answer keys. The SFP whistleblowers believe the cheating is forced because Securitas is short on guards and cannot afford to lose anyone who might
fail the exam.
The reason they get away with this is because the Superintendent, OPSEC1, A.D. Barginere of Progress Energy started the cheating years ago, giving a female guard the answers to her Board tests. Cheating by individuals on examinations can never be excused or tolerated. Such unacceptable behavior is even more egregious when it is a company and/or management directed activity, as it appears to be in this case. It is eerily reminiscent of the widespread cheating by operators at Three Mile Island Unit 1 during efforts to restart it following the meltdown of its sister unit.
Violation of checkpoints: armed guards ordered to disregard vehicles, equipment entering Protected Area
A number of times, Progress managers and others have tried to prevent trucks entering the Protected Area from being searched at checkpoints. Guards report that Progress managers have disrupted the searches, in part by badgering guards, ordering them to speed things up.
March 11th, a technical worker was using a crane to lift equipment onto a building in a secondary Protected Area (at the cooling water intake) without a security guard present and without the equipment being searched as required under regulations. No one is allowed in that area without escort; even a guard cannot go there unescorted. This is a violation requiring that Progress report it to NRC within one hour.
A number of SFP know that SFP did report the violation immediately through the chain of command, as required. Also, they know that SFP reported the violation directly to NRC because they believed Progress might not report it. Progress later conducted an investigation, but SFP believe the problem was covered up.
Security Doors Left Nonfunctioning Indefinitely
The doors at the Harris Plant are 20 years old and many have hardware and security mechanisms that are worn out and inoperable, thus not allowing the doors to be secured.
“Door DX leads from the outside directly to vital equipment, and will not secure at all. It can be opened with almost no effort at all from the outside without a key.” It triggers tamper alarms frequently when it is checked because it will open when SFP check it as part of their patrols.
In the last week of November, one guard stated, “That door was checked again in recent days, and remains unsecured.”
Security supervisors work directly for the Progress OPSECs, “and they will shout you down if you talk about it,” according to one SFP. Door DXXX is on the XXXX side and leads into the ……………………. Building. It also will not secure, as with DX noted above. Just inside is a card read door that leads right to the ………………………… This was reported to the Chief of Security, Deb Leatherberry and she did nothing to correct the problem. The response required by federal regulations to recurring reports about safety and security problems is to correct the problems, not to chastise the persons filing the reports.
Door DXYZ is at ground level outside of ……………………., and will not secure either. During a recent inspection tour, an NRC inspector opened it accidentally without a key in front of a training class.
The spindle was removed so the door could be secured, but it had to be replaced because a guard pointed out that state fire code mandates the door be operable from inside as safety equipment. Progress OPSEC Barginere commented in front of many people that it would cost $7,000 to rebuild the door correctly, implying that it was too expensive.
DYYY is a card read door that leads to vital equipment. According to one SFP whistleblower, “It is unsecured almost all the time, and anyone could walk right in. Most of the guards don’t check these doors anymore, because if they open them, it causes an alarm. When guards point out that doors don’t lock, it pisses off the Security Supervision. These unsecured doors are something you ‘just don’t talk about.’”
One corporal for Securitas complained to the armed guards that they should treat the doors gently, saying, “ALL the doors are like that if you hit ‘em hard enough.” “With doors in that condition, they’re giving everyone access. Progress Energy seems apathetic about this. Every manager is looking at their bonuses, and they all have an incentive to save money.”
“Guards who have been there a long time don’t even bother checking doors anymore – they don’t want to be yelled at by Progress.”
“There’s no telling how long [one particular exterior door to a vital area] has been broken, because it is rarely used.”
“The whole defense strategy depends on the doors slowing an intruder.” One SPF says that “with some card read doors, he’s turned door knobs and doors simply open.”
“There should be a certified locksmith to come in NOW, fix the doors, and then recertify them at least every year.”
When asked to what level Progress Energy knows about the unsecured doors, one guard replied, “I think Barginere’s boss, head of security at all Progress’ nuclear plants knows.”
The issue of inoperable doors is also important because some are seldom used; a complacency exists about alarms because guards so often trigger them by opening the doors during patrols.
Flawed or missing intruder detection equipment – uncorrected indefinitely
The plant has a history of leaving intruder detection equipment inoperable. The microwave detector at Gate … was non-functional and it took almost a year for Progress Energy to get it fixed. The BMS switches are gutted at Gate … These are what let the alarm system know the gate has been opened. The insides were just removed and used somewhere else. Guards checking these earlier in the year talked about this on the radio and were told not to say anything about it when they find inoperable equipment, but to call Henry Delany and let him take care of it.
“Another guard told me his supervisor said they just keep that BMS on ‘holdout,’ meaning it is deactivated and won’t alarm. Interestingly, this month [November] they are testing these again and they brought guards from Progress’ Brunswick plant to do the testing and are not allowing Harris Plant guards to know if they work or not now, due to the talk about it earlier this year.”
Reprisals against security personnel for reporting injuries
It is widely known among plant safety and security personnel that Progress Energy and security contractor Securitas expect workers not to report workplace injuries, and that they aggressively carry out reprisals against those who do file injury reports. Most of the direct examples included here involve armed guards, but there are indications of similar patterns with the plant’s non-security personnel.
In recent months, the NC Department of Labor was asked to intervene, and it ordered Progress Energy to allow three guards back to work who had been suspended without pay after making Worker’s Compensation claims following injuries. According to another guard, “This was an attempt by Progress Energy to suppress accident reporting, which was a direct threat to the security of the plant.” Negotiations are still ongoing regarding settlements with the three workers, and all have returned to work.
Another guard, ………………. had a severe accident earlier this year while on the firing range during training. His leg was broken and the two main ligaments in his knee were torn. Progress Energy OPSEC Peckinpaugh knew ……….. was hurt, but the company didn’t want a lost time injury, so it wasn’t reported. ………… had to be carried from the range, but he worked four more days after the injury, a violation of NRC regulations, because the “rules” at Harris are that “you do not report injuries.” When his knee was swollen so badly he couldn’t walk, Progress let him go to the doctor, who determined that he would likely be unable to work for up to six months. “For four days, he wasn’t a valid security guard. The plant was not protected during that period.”
“While Progress worried about people not filing injuries, they aren’t paying attention to the security of the plant.” One guard, ……………., suffered two injuries this year, to both the back and a knee, and was fired after reporting the second one.
After a serious knee injury suffered during a drill, another guard, ……………., was forced by Progress Energy Site Safety Representative Bill Gregory to work over seven additional hours despite being given a codeine drug for pain – to avoid the company having to log a lost-time injury, and despite the fact that both the knee injury and the drug impaired the guard’s ability to perform critical security functions. This is a violation of NRC regulations.
One guard told NRC of being afraid to report an accident, but NRC did nothing. “Progress went after the guard for doing that.”
“People have been told directly that they cannot report injuries. Securitas Vice President Diane Woods told them that in a meeting [on or about 8/19/05].” “Progress had a form that indicated that if they reported injuries, it would hurt their bonus. The NC Dept. of Labor told Progress this was illegal.”
Being an armed guard is often a dangerous, physically grueling job, and disabling accidents are not rare. The guards believe these risks are amplified by training and equipment deficiencies. Any mental or physical condition that impairs a guard’s judgment or ability to respond to any potential intrusion requires, under NRC regulations, that the guard be disarmed and removed from his/her security shift. “People work hurt, scared to report injuries.”
“The plant’s not really being defended when people are working hurt.” In addition, the well-established pattern of reprisals for reporting injuries has the ominous consequence of instilling a ‘chilling effect’ preventing the free and unfettered reporting of nuclear safety and security concerns. After all, seeing fellow workers retaliated against for filing injury reports does not provide one with much confidence that filing a nuclear safety or nuclear security concern will be received without reprisals. The reprisal pattern also makes a mockery out of the right of workers to self-declare conditions, such as fatigue, that may impair their performance. This instilled reluctance counters the position espoused by the NRC in its Regulatory Issue Summary 2002-07, “Clarification of NRC Requirements Applicable to Worker Fatigue and Self-Declarations of Fitness-for-Duty,” dated May 10, 2002.
When management patterns consistently belittle the health of the security guards and overlook/downplay their injuries, can anyone realistically expect those individuals to risk their lives to protect the nuclear plant and its surrounding populace from a determined attack?
Extensive falsification of night shift records
Night shift security is widely known among the overall force to have serious problems and to be poorly supervised. “There is a lot of sleeping going on … watching TV and listening to music.” Armed guards are required to call the Central Alarm Station every 15 minutes to report their status. Records are kept on these call-ins. It is widely known that the reporting does not occur as required, and that supervisors often mark the reports as if the call-ins did happen.
The apparent falsification of security guard call-ins is reminiscent of the falsification of fire watch rounds that occurred all too often between 1993 and 2003 as the industry struggled to cope with Thermal-Lag fire barrier problems. The NRC did not tolerate falsification of fire watch records then and should not tolerate falsification of security guard records now.
Weapons discharge violations covered up
Since January 2005, Harris has had at least four accidental weapons discharges, three on the on-site firing range and one inside the security building. The first accident happened in January on the range. The third one happened under exactly the same circumstances on the range. Two people were fired in order to cover up the first accident: the shooter (… ……) and the instructor (…….). Progress Energy
required all involved to sign non-disclosure agreements so that word would not get out around the plant. A Nuclear Condition Report was filed with NRC, but was six months late. …………. was OK until word got around the plant about the discharge after he had been told to stay quiet about it. “Then they found an excuse to fire him .. he was fired for losing his badge in the parking lot.”
The second accident happened while a Sergeant (……………..) was unloading a weapon. The fourth one happened on the range: Armed guard ………….. fired when the range was cold (no firing authorized) due to bad range commands given by Captain Faulk.
“This [the discharges] pointed out the severe training deficiencies at the Harris Plant. Nothing was ever done (such as additional training) to address these problems.”
Weapons violations endangering plant personnel
In April 2005, it became know among plant personnel that OPSEC Barginere of Progress Energy was allowing unqualified, non-guards to fire “miles gear” weapons inside the Protected Area. According to eyewitnesses that one whistleblower feels are credible, those firing included plant operators and the plant VP, Jim Scarola. These personnel are not authorized to handle weapons inside the Protected Area. The weapons were real, but loaded with blanks and set for use in “laser tag” training (Weapons with blanks can cause serious injury to the person firing them). In this case, they were pretending to fire at a SFP guard approximately two hundred yards away, who was wearing a “laser tag” vest and running. There were no safety provisions to keep live ammo from being used in the weapons.
A guard who was unaware of the activities became startled by seeing plain clothed personnel with rifles, and the guard responded by opening a gun port, an action that precedes the need to fire a weapon at intruders. “NRC just stood by and let unauthorized people fire weapons.” One week later, a guard (……………), was discovered to have live rounds on his person while preparing to fire blanks at other plant guards. It was a very close call. The NC Department of Labor and OSHA got involved, and required Harris to obtain modified safe rifles for miles gear training.
Ignoring alarms, detection equipment
On 11/28/05, a fire alarm went off at approximately 12:30 pm at the Emergency Service Water Intake Structure. Although this is designated a Vital Area, the alarm sounded constantly for at least three hours. SPF reported the alarm immediately and repeatedly to Central Alarm Station, and pointed out that SPF cannot enter the building and verify security while an alarm is sounding. The Central Alarm Station reported the fire alarm to the plant Control Room. Word was passed back to security that the Control Room assumed it was a false alarm. At 3:53, Progress Operations came and cleared the building, and quieted the fire alarm.
Violation of overtime rules for security force
It is generally known at Harris that SFP are frequently given retail “gift cards” in lieu of hourly wages in order to avoid exceeding weekly limits put into effect post-9/11 due to complaints that armed guards at U.S. plants were being overworked, which potentially weakens security force effectiveness. This practice apparently includes falsification of records required by NRC.
On April 29, 2003, the NRC ordered that nuclear plant owners institute working hour limits for security force personnel as protection against impairment from fatigue. If security force personnel at Harris are induced into working ‘off the clock,’ the NRC’s order is not being followed.
Outdated Equipment Vital to Plant Protection
In March 2005 the NC Dept. Of Labor, OSHA had to get involved because guards reported to them that 44 out of 100 gas mask canisters were found to be expired, some since 1987. Also about half of the ballistic vests were out of ballistic warranty. Progress Energy was required to correct this problem by the state. “If a chemical attack occurred at the plant, many of the guards would be taken down.”
It is not clear if all problems were corrected.
MISC ITEMS: Other flawed vital equipment
This summer, a fire on a telephone pole on the OCA led to repair workers cutting off power to all guard shacks, and all phone service for the entire plant. Duration at least 1.5 hours. “There should be battery back-up for the plant phone system.” In early December, a Progress supervisor ordered a non-security plant technician to use a lift despite a sign stating “Do not use without being trained.” When he pointed to the sign and stated that he was not trained to use the equipment, the supervisor told him to “use it anyway.”
Recent actions targeting Harris, Brunswick
On the night of 8/19/05, an armed guard at Harris reported being fired on while on patrol near the lake area. This included a tracer round that he saw as it passed him. The plant was locked down for at least 1.5 hours, and a plant investigation determined the guard’s report was probably true, although no evidence was found. The guard reporting the event is formerly a highly trained Special Forces veteran,
and subsequently was hired by the U.S. Department of Energy to protect nuclear weapons.
On the morning of November 4, 2005, a large plain black flag was found hung from the top of a communications tower in the Owner Controlled Area of the Harris plant, approximately one-half mile from the Protected Area. The intrusion went unnoticed by plant security, although the area is under 24-hour patrol.
During that same night (Nov. 3), a rail line was sabotaged outside Progress Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant. One or more spikes had been driven into the ground, preventing a switching mechanism from operating. Harris SFP were told that this would have apparently derailed a train if it had not been discovered. The rail line carries various materials, including ……………… shipments.