Sunday, June 17, 2018
Business

Report details drug and alcohol violations at U.S. nuclear plants

Drug and alcohol violations at U.S. nuclear plants increased from about one a month to almost one every week over the last five years, with a majority of cases in southeastern states, a new study has found.

A report by Vermont-based Fairewinds Energy Education set for release today cites dozens of violations reported to federal regulators each year from 2008 through 2013 that range from drinking alcohol in a "protected area" of the plant to positive tests for marijuana and cocaine.

The report notes several incidents at Florida nuclear power stations, including Duke Energy's shuttered Crystal River plant and Florida Power & Light's Turkey Point and St. Lucie facilities.

For instance, last November a contract supervisor at Crystal River tested positive for alcohol while another's access to the plant was terminated after the worker tried to enter with a "prohibited substance."

In June, a contract supervisor at FPL's Turkey Point plant was arrested off site for possession of a controlled substance. In April and June 2012, three contract supervisors at Turkey Point tested positive for illegal drugs.

"Ten percent of the people who get caught, test positive for cocaine," said Arnie Gundersen, a Fairewinds co-founder and developer of the study.

Gundersen, a nuclear engineer who worked at dozens of nuclear plants and now serves as a consultant on utility matters, said the growing incidence of drug and alcohol violations is disturbing because major nuclear accidents such as the one at Three Mile Island were in part the result of operator error.

"You're balancing dozens of things simultaneously," said Gundersen, a frequent critic of the nuclear industry. "Keeping all these balls in the air requires all your mental faculties."

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires plant operators to report drug and alcohol incidents involving workers, whether on or off site.

Roger Hannah, an NRC spokesman, said the commission had not seen the report but part of any increase in alcohol and drug incidents might be related to tougher standards implemented in 2008. He said the Southeast may have more cases because there are more nuclear plants than in other regions.

Regulators, Hannah said, are confident the NRC and plant owners "have a similar standard for ensuring that employees and contractors are not under the influence of any substance that may inhibit their ability to safely carry out their responsibilities."

Rita Sipe, a Duke Energy spokeswoman, said the utility had not seen the report and would not comment on specifics in it. But she said Duke has a policy of pre-employment drug and alcohol screenings, background investigations, random testing and other measures to ensure safety.

"Positive test results are not acceptable and violate our Fitness-for-Duty program," she said.

Michael Waldron, an FPL spokesman, said the drug and alcohol incidents are rare. But all workers "from plant operator to an administrative position needs to meet the same requirements as an airline pilot. We don't tolerate a violation of any of these standards regardless of whether it is an employee or contractor."

Comments
Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

Your barista is a robot. Should it be friendly?

SAN FRANCISCO - The cold, steely arm of Fernando the Barista swirled the foam of my matcha latte, set it down gently, and waved goodbye from inside a glass case. San Francisco, 2018. Where you can get robot pizza and robot salad, and now, a robot mat...
Published: 06/16/18
St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

St. Petersburg home becomes finalist in HGTV contest

ST. PETERSBURG — A house in St. Petersburg’s Old Northeast is a finalist in HGTV’s Ultimate House Hunt contest. Built in 2007 in the Mission Revival style, the 4,000-square-foot home a block from Coffee Pot Bayou is among 12 nationwide in the "curb a...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

Extending Albert Whitted’s runway could help Innovation District take off

ST. PETERSBURG — Albert Whitted Airport wants to extend its main runway. But what would benefit the airport could also benefit the St. Pete Innovation District.Moving the runway would ease building restrictions around the airport, allowing the Univer...
Published: 06/15/18
Updated: 06/16/18
Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 3.8 percent

Just when it seemed like Florida’s unemployment rate couldn’t get lower, it did. According to the state figures out Friday, Florida’s jobless rate dipped to a near 18-year low of 3.8 percent in May after holding steady at 3.9 percen...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

Florida’s first not-for-profit coding school is opening in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — Filling in a hole that was left by The Iron Yard’s exodus last year, a new computer coding school will open its doors to its first class in downtown St. Petersburg on July 23.The Academy at Suncoast Developers Guild will operate thro...
Published: 06/15/18
Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates pays $43-million for Boynton Beach apartment community

Tampa-based Robbins Property Associates, has bought Aventine at Boyton Beach, a 216-unit apartment community, for $43 million.Aventine, garden-style apartments that are 95 percent occupied, will be renovated and renamed "Verona at Boynton Beach."It i...
Published: 06/15/18
Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

Florida craft beer guild: Big Beer is pushing us out of Publix

The national battle between Big Beer and local craft breweries is playing out on the shelves of your neighborhood Publix — and some favorite Florida brewmakers are losing.The guild that represents Florida brewers says at least 12 small breweries have...
Published: 06/15/18
Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Accused of racial profiling, Lowe’s ends policy of checking customer receipts as they leave

Memorial Day weekend was supposed to bring three productive days of home improvement for Will Mega, a dean at a North Philadelphia charter school.He’d go to two Lowe’s locations near his home in Philadelphia’s Wynnefield neighborhood for a grill and ...
Published: 06/15/18
McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

McDonald’s to test alternatives to plastic straws in U.S.

NEW YORK — McDonald’s said Friday it will switch to paper straws at all its locations in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and test an alternative to plastic ones in some of its U.S. restaurants later this year.The burger chain and other fast-food comp...
Published: 06/15/18
Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

Strange brew? Tampa Bay group hopes to grow hops and medical marijuana in the same spot

ST. PETERSBURG --- Among topics that stir passionate interest, two that rank high are medical marijuana and craft beers.A group of Tampa Bay entrepreneurs has ambitious plans to profit from both.They are leasing a vast warehouse space in St. Petersbu...
Published: 06/15/18