The story of Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant is an expose of PG&E and an expose of nuclear regulation. It’s happening now. Its dangers and warnings are critical for the public to heed.
Shut It Down Now! Former Humboldt PG&E IBEW 1245 Nuclear Plant Technician Bob Rowen On Nuclear Power
Bob Rowen was a Humboldt PG&E IBEW 1245 nuclear control technician at the power plant. He talks about being a control technician at the plant and what happened when he began to stand up for health and safety as a whistleblower. His fight to protect the workers and the community cost him his job when he raised health and safety concerns and he along with another nuclear control technician Forrest Williams were retaliated against and illegally terminated. He also recounts an effort to set up a criminal conspiracy frame-up by PG&E to charge him with planning to blow up the plant and a false document was sent to the FBI to blacklist him throughout the country to prevent him from working in any other nuclear plant in the US. He also reports on the role of his union IBEW 1245 and the media when a reporter from NBC Donald Widener tried to cover the story and was retaliated against by PG&E in actions that destroyed his career. He also discusses the case of PG&E Diablo Canyon nuclear plant whistleblower Neil Aiken. Aiken went to PG&E’s Board of Directors with his concerns over safety and was also targeted and fired. This interview was done on January 26, 2015. Rowen has written a book about his struggle called My Humboldt Diary: A True Story of Betrayal of the Public Trust, Nuclear Power at Humboldt Bay. For more information http://www.myhumboldtdiary.com
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My name is Bob Rowen. I became a nuclear control technician at the Humboldt Bay nuclear power plant in Eureka. The plant went online in 1963, in August of 63, and I showed up in March of 1964.
My first job at the plant was apprentice instrument repairman, but within six months I entered the nuclear control technician training program. journeymanprogram in the PG&E system, I became a nuclear control technician.
I thought that I had found a career of a lifetime. When I got out of the Marines and went to work there and thought I was on the ground floor of a program that in an industry that was going to be second to none, but as I got into it, I found that it was not what it was all cracked up to be.
How long was the training program?
42 months. It was a very rigorous training program that requires a lot of hours on the weekends and at night learning all the things that we had to learn as well as classroom work during the day.
And so what happened when you started working there?
Well I I became involved in and developed a special interest in radiation protection.
The nuclear control technician program in those days consisted of actually three elements: nuclear instrumentation, radiation protection, and radio chemistry. What I was particularly concerned about the radiation protection aspect of the job, and so when I started studying all of the training materials that PG&E had provided, I found that they were not in agreement with what I had learned in the military.
I was a Marine Pathfinder and I trained in ABC warfare – atomic, biological, and chemical warfare. And the atomic part of that talked about the kinds of hazards associated with radiation that did not agree one bit with what PG&E was providing us. So I started asking some embarrassing questions. At first they weren’t necessarily challenging plant management but their responses led me to a confrontation with the management because I felt that I was being lied to
At one point, yes, because I believed in corporate America and I believed in the government. I thought the AEC would do everything that they were charged with in terms of their responsibilities of protecting employees and the general public. But it turns out that that wasn’t the case at all.
So you began asking questions And what happened?
Well, eventually I was told that if I was looking for trouble, I was going to find it. The plant engineer made that very clear to me and I told him, my response was, I’m not going to be bullied. I still had a lot of Marine in me in my mid-20s, and I just said, I’m not going to kowtow to you. I won’t do that.
Eventually I found myself faced with having to, well, for example I was ordered to sign false shipping documents. The spent-fuel shipping cask — and it’s a long story; it’s in my book; it spells out exactly what took place — but the shipping cask ended up with several? contaminations exceeding DOT regs, and the release papers that had my name pre-typed on as a nuclear control technician, and I said I’m not signing those papers because they’re false. And I was ordered to do it. So I signed them under protest. And then I put it in the radiation control log exactly what had taken place, and I had another serious set-to with the plant engineer. And that’s just one example of many things that happen.Continue reading