California Nuclear Workers File Whistleblower Charges Against Edison

Veteran Managers at SONGS Nuclear Power Plant near San Clemente Say Southern California Edison Retaliated When They Reported Nuclear Safety Concerns

Nov 18, 2009, 08:00 ET from Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP

SAN ONOFRE, Calif., Nov. 18 /PRNewswire/ -- In whistleblower complaints filed this week with the U.S. Department of Labor, two managers at Southern California Edison's San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (SONGS) say the company violated federal law when it retaliated against them for raising nuclear safety concerns.

Rick Busnardo and Mike Mason have worked at SONGS for 25 and 29 years respectively, and together manage the fabrication shop that builds steel casks for the long-term storage of the plant's spent fuel rods. The integrity of the casks is critical because the spent fuel remains highly radioactive for hundreds of years.

Busnardo and Mason allege that trouble began when they reported a "willful violation" of nuclear-safety standards to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) in October 2008, after learning that a fabricator in their shop had performed welding operations that fell short of the plants' quality-assurance specifications. Busnardo and Mason believe their report angered Edison management because the NRC had cited the SONGS plant for a high level of such willful violations several months earlier, and the company wanted to avoid further scrutiny.

When upper-level management began to ostracize Busnardo and Mason and downplay the accuracy of their report, the two managers wrote an email to Edison's CEO and other senior management complaining that the company had created a chilled environment in which employees were afraid to raise safety concerns for fear of retaliation. The managers allege that Edison responded to their whistleblowing by removing their duties, denying Busnardo a promotion, issuing Mason a negative performance review, and attacking their professional reputations.

David J. Marshall, an attorney with the Washington, D.C., whistleblower law firm of Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP who represents the workers, said that Busnardo and Mason have filed their complaints to ensure that SONGS employees and other nuclear workers can raise safety concerns without fear of retaliation. "Busnardo and Mason are protecting the health and safety of their coworkers and their communities," Marshall said. "Millions of people are in serious danger if workers at nuclear power plants can't speak out about safety problems without losing their jobs."

SOURCE Katz, Marshall & Banks, LLP