— Humboldt Bay problems continue; PG&E retaliates against decommissioning expert

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.

OSHA & The Cover-up At The PG&E Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Station

Darrell Whitman who was a Federal OSHA investigator and lawyer discusses his investigation at the PG&E nuclear power plant at Humboldt Bay in Northern California. Whitman reports on how OSHA officials refused to defend the whistleblowers and instead allowed them to be retaliated against. Whitman who also became a whistleblower was terminated by top OSHA officials on May 5, 2015 He and his union AFGE Local 2371 are fighting against this retaliation. He was also a shop steward for his AFGE local and many other AFGE workers are being bullied and terrorized by OSHA management for doing their jobs. This interview was done in February 2015.

Unofficial transcript:

My name is Darrell Whitman and I’m at the moment at least an investigator with the US Department of Labor OSHA’s whistleblower protection program here in San Francisco.

As an investigator we are again we handle 22 statutes that are supposed to provide whistleblower protection to everyone from the maid in the hotel to high-level corporate officials who are reporting fraud in corporate fraud and a lot of very technical complaints people as I had and we’ve talked about this before.

I had a high-level official very, very experienced, very highly regarded in the industry who was the safety manager at a major nuclear plant, and he blew the whistle and it was a pretty ugly story.after that,

This was the Humboldt Bay a power plant and this fellow, basically he had come from the Midwest and his expertise was he was in nuclear security, but he also helped Senator Lieberman draft the protocols for decommissioning plants. And so he was he was more than just an expert. He was a very high-value person. And he wanted to apply this new knowledge. So when the opportunity was given to him to come out to Humboldt Bay to the nuclear plant, it was going to be the first nuclear plant actually decommissioned where they were gonna apply the protocols that he had worked on with the Senate, yeah he was very excited about it.

He didn’t know a lot about California. He didn’t know a lot about PG&E. The irony was he came to California thinking, now he’s from Nebraska, he’s a surfer, he had gotten into being a surfer from his early on, and had gone to the Gulf Coast and of course, he heard the best surfing in the country was in California. So in his mind, he was going to be going to a plant that was right on the ocean. So it’s gonna be perfect opportunity to do surfing.

Well, when he got there, he discovered a lot of things. Among other things, he discovered very early on was, the security staff was completely unprepared to do the job. When he actually started vetting them as far as testing their skill levels and their preparation, half of them he had to fire. He had, and nothing against older people, he had a seventy eight year old security guard who could not do a push-up. This is not a good thing. His security guards have to be physically capable of putting, you know. of doing the job. Then shortly after that, he began to discover other things about the culture of the region. You know, we’re talking Humboldt, and he didn’t realize coming from Nebraska what it means to be living in the Green Triangle. So he discovered that there was an awful lot of drug dealing and drug use going on including people in the plant operating centers.

And that of course was – what’s his issue? He’s a security director

So what he also didn’t understand was when PG&E got the agreement with the local area to build the plant in the first place, they had sort of cut a backroom deal which was to employ locals. You know, this is a tricky this is a thing you see commonly with a lot of plants and particularly ones that are potentially dangerous that

They bribe people.

That’s and as a form of bribery will get, will create 500 jobs in your neighborhood. And for a small area in a fairly remote area — Eureka I think has maybe thirty five thousand people — this was a big deal. So people were willing, at least the officials were willing, to overlook the questions because they were going to get jobs.

On the other hand, PG&E was not discriminating in regard to who was getting the jobs. So you were drawing a large portion of the plant operators and not so much the technical operators but the people who were the security people, people who were performing lower-level kinds of jobs coming from the local community, and this is the green traffic, so it was problematic arrangement, let’s put it that way. But among other things he discovered very early on, was that the plant and misplaced fuel rods. They couldn’t account for all the fuel rods. You know, it was just kind of a litany of things like this

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— Nuclear accident at PG&E’s Humboldt Bay Nuclear Plant? Whistleblower presents the evidence and shocking history

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.

Was there an accident at Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant?

In 1970, a power outage caused the Humboldt Bay Nuclear Power Plant to malfunction. Using historic sources, we investigate whether this resulted in a leak of radioactive gases.

Unofficial transcript based on auto-transcript:

My name is Scott Rainsford .I was born in Iowa. I was a marine science technician in the United States Coast Guard initially four years active duty, followed by another 14 roughly years of Coast Guard Reserve when I came up here. As a marine science technician, my commanding officer in the Coast Guard Reserve sent me to the PG&E nuclear power plant in the year 1978 to see if I could update their contingency plan.

I went to the plant, I read their contingency plan, and after i had thoroughly read it i asked if they ever had a chance to use it. They replied, Well. as a matter of fact, yes we have.”

They brought out this report marked “confidential.”

When a nuclear plant is operating, there is a person in charge called a nuclear operator and he keeps a log of every important fact or issue that happens during his watch. There’s a time annotation and then what happened.

The report described an accident that happened on July 17, 1970. It just so happened that a man named Shiffer was there, and he was one of PG&E’s best and brightest. He was a senior nuclear operator. So seeing this crisis developed, he took command of the reactor. So the log that i was reading was his operational log.

This report described the following:

A maintenance crew from PG&E went to a local substation at an area called Mitchell Height, and they were going to do some maintenance on a high tension line. They believed that this high tension line was dead. Because of that, the maintenance crew opened an air circuit breaker. The result was a fireball which melted and damaged the whole circuit. That 60 000 volts was supplying outside power to PG&E’s unit number three.

The nuclear power plant when they lose outside power, down goes the feed water pumps that feed coolant water into the reactor. So we have an issue of overheating the core.

The next in line during this initial start of the emergency was a propane generator. Problem with this propane generator was that it did not provide enough power to supply the feed water pumps which would keep the reactor cool, and it also did not supply all the power necessary to run the instrumentation that the nuclear control operator needed to understand what was happening to the reactor so he had no idea how much coolant remained. So now, the nuclear operator is operating blind.

There were three units. The first two units were petroleum-based. The third unit was the only nuclear plant. When the nuclear plant is running, one of the other two units must be in operation and that is so that if the nuclear unit lost outside power, the other operating unit could supply emergency outside power to the nuclear unit. It failed because several months before, another maintenance crew had disconnected a cable in the switch yard and therefore, could not complete the circuit. The second major part of the fail-safe system failed. That piece of equipment was called an emergency condenser. What that is a compartment partially filled with water that functions similar to a car radiator. A valve that automatically is supposed to open from the reactor taking this out of specification pressure in the form of steam. It runs through a series of baffles in this emergency condenser which is partially filled with water. The steam is cooled, condensed back into water, and put back into the reactor core to keep it cool. The emergency condenser failed, because a valve would not open.

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