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they were only interested in fastener items.” While walking through the plant, Corder said that he observed 14 specific violations that he later reported to the NRC and to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Houston Lighting and Power officials admit that they refused to allow Corder to enter Unit I. They insist that allowing him to enter, even in the company of the NRC inspectors, would be dangerous. “We have an obligation to our workers and to the public,” Walker said. “We could not let someone with an obvious vendetta into the plant. If he knew what he was looking for, he could tell the inspectors.” Corder, and Tom Smith of Public Citizen, the Texas office of the national consumer advocacy group, claim that the incident demonstrates the extent to which HL&P controls the government inspectors, an allegation that Walker, speaking for HL&P, denies: “The NRC has charged us with the responsibility of seeing that the plant is safe. Those issues have been adequately dealt with. The NRC has taken a careful look at the allegations and we are certain that they have been dealt with.” The utility characterizes Corder as a man trying to settle the score with the company that fired him. Yet Corder contends that he never would have been dismissed, had he kept quiet on the safety issues. Corder’s long tenure with Bechtel, and the timing of his , dismissal, suggest that he could be right. Quality control at a nuclear power plant requires employee access to company officials, government inspectors, and the Safeteam that is established by the federal Energy Reorganization Act. These projects, GAP attorney Richard Condit said, are so vast and complex that NRC inspectors and company quality control superintendents can not see everything. NRC inspectors will actually inspect between one and three percent of a nuclear plant’s hardware. Once employees fear that a complaint to a quality control officer might threaten their job security, the system breaks down. According to Smith, at STNP, the system has broken down. FOR LONNAL WILHELM, the system never worked. Wilhelm was employed as a supervisor in the measuring and testing laboratory at STNP from 1978 1984. At an Austin press conference in January, Wilhelm told a room filled with reporters that critical notices sent to quality control officials were answered with false or misleading statements. Consequently, he claims, many of the safety tests performed with any number of 57 types of instruments that his lab was required to certify, are not valid. Instruments used in testing, Wilhelm claims, were out of calibration. And his allegations about the integrity of the quality control process are as disturbing as his allegations about faulty instruments. LOUIS DUBOSE Whistleblower Lonnal Wilhelm According to Wilhelm, at least one quality control official ordered him to stop filing the required deficiency evaluation paperwork. A proper reaction to these notices required retesting of systems checked with deficient instruments a practice that cost the contractor time and money’. Wilhelm was, he insists, pressured to cover up the deficiencies: “I was called into the office of the quality control supervisor, [whom he names] on several occasions and told, ‘Stop issuing, sending these deficient notices. You’re making your brother quality control departments look bad. Come up with some fancy words and make this go away.’ ” On another occasion, Wilhelm said that he was told by an NRC official that, “You might end up in a ditch.” Wilhelm does not consider the statement a threat; it was, he said, the official’s assessment of the danger in which Wilhelm was placing himself. He became more cautious and began to pay more attention to the safety of his family. However, he refused to refrain from issuing quality control reports unless ordered in writing to do so. In August of 1984 Lonnal Wilhelm was dismissed. One month later, he said, the wife of his former supervisor was promoted to Wilhelm’s position. Wilhelm said that in 1985 he took his complaints to Dan Tomlinson and Jack Kendt, representatives of NRC’s Region IV office. He received no response from the NRC until December 1987, after he had retained an attorney and gone public with his complaints. He also said that he feared for his life and for the safety of his family. Wilhelm is currently unemployed and has moved his family to South Texas. “The safest place in the state,” he said. “South and west of the plant.” Among the 400 complaints included in the GAP allegations turned over to the NRC are 75 claims of stifling of employee criticism and 43 alleged incidents of employee harassment. Employees allege that after voicing safety concerns they were subjected to urine testing and at times dismissed or reassigned. One worker com plained that there was a violation of confidentiality: worker safety complaints that should have been read only by Safeteam members were first seen by supervisors to whom employees were required to report safety concerns. Others complain that employees were told to “keep your mouth shut” and “don’t look into areas where you know what the problem is.” GAP attorneys Condit and Billie Garde have filed a petition with the NRC requesting that the agency defer licensing until a complete investigation of all allegations by GAP whistleblowers is completed. They also asked the commission to release to the public a report explaining how each of the safety allegations is resolved. The petition describes the NRC’s January inspection as inadequate. Among the GAP allegations is a claim that a draft of the inspection team’s findings was prepared at NRC headquarters before the team returned from its inspection tour. Information concerning the premature draft of the report was leaked by an NRC employee. GAP attorneys have also complained that when they made their files available to the NRC inspectors, after carefully depersonalizing them to protect the identities of informants, NRC inspectors reviewed only the abbreviated summaries of complaints rather than the more extensive background material in the files. \(Identities of whistleblowers are routinely withheld to In Austin, where the city-owned utility company holds 16 percent interest in the project, the City Council has been asked to conduct public hearings on plant safety prior to the NRC hearing. But the city, according to Mayor Frank Cooksey, is involved in very delicate negotiations with other owners of STNP. For years, Austin has been trying to litigate its way out of its partnership in the project. Cooksey told his councilmembers that they should refrain from discussing or acting on the request for safety hearings lest they jeopardize the settlement negotiations. Condit and others who oppose February licensing recognize that few options remain once the plant is granted permission to go to full power. “There is a slim chance that they [NRC] will delay licensing further to investigate,” Condit said. If a license is granted, GAP’s only remaining recourse will be a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C. Corder claims that he took the matter up with Congressman Torn DeLay at a Brazoria town meeting. DeLay, a Houston Republican whose district includes the STNP, assured Corder that he was concerned about the allegations, Corder said. And he said that if Corder could provide him with a list of specific complaints, he would accompany Corder into the plant to inspect them. “That’s on the record,” Corder said. “The Congressman said it at the town meeting.” But a spokesperson for DeLay’s office said that the Congressman is now satisfied THE TEXAS OBSERVER 19