Title: Echoes of Fukushima as toxic management erodes safety at Exelon’s Byron, ‘world’s safest’ nuclear plant
Source: The Japan Times
Author: Dreux Richard
Date: March 11, 2013
[...] Many of the [Byron Nuclear Generating Station's] personnel believe that abuse contributed to multiple deaths and a rash of severe illnesses. [...]
“It’s probably about 5 acres out there — the part where the shit happens,” one operator said. “Per square inch, those 5 acres produce more misery than any other five in the world, at least as far as nuke plants go.”
[...] the plant was even forced to reinstate its most erratic operator after terminating him because management had failed to adequately document numerous examples of his aberrant behaviors, including several instances of physical violence while on duty. [...]
A significant number of operators have entertained suicidal thoughts, often due to workplace stress, and often during their shifts, while they were operating Byron’s nuclear reactors. Many of these operators have avoided seeking help, fearing it could get them fired. [...]
On the severe illnesses:
The lack of regard for safety also affected working conditions for reactor operators. Several patterns of illness arose. At one time, three NSOs — all of whom had worked on the same shift — were diagnosed with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease whose causes are still not clearly understood. The third operator to be afflicted was nearly crippled.
Examples of deaths:
Paul was an NSO, and NSOs do shift work. Their schedules are like those of police officers or firefighters: several days (and/or nights) on, a few days off. [...] Paul was exhibiting persistent flulike symptoms. He started to drop weight, eventually losing almost 40 pounds [...] This went on for three months before Paul hanged himself in the shed behind his boyhood home. [...] on a night shift shortly before he took his own life, Paul was seen pacing the hallways near his old office, muttering to himself incomprehensibly.
Sometime around December 2008, Scott Fruin was Byron’s shift operations supervisor [...] when a reactor operator with a history of nodding off on the job fell asleep in the plant’s Work Control Center. [...] Sometime after the incident, Fruin accepted a demotion. Later in 2009, rumors began to circulate that Fruin had spoken with NRC officials about the sleeping operator. In the early hours of Sept. 10, he shot himself. He left a suicide note written on a notepad obtained in Lisle, Illinois, where the Midwestern NRC regional office is located, and where he’d been that day. At Fruin’s funeral, Byron’s plant manager, Brad Adams — along with Byron’s human resources manager — aggressively questioned Fruin’s loved ones about whether he had made any mention of work-related matters in the days and weeks leading up to his death.
Published: March 12th, 2013 at 8:24 am ET