Security flaws that enabled hundreds of construction workers to maintain access to Plant Vogtle without participating in random drug and alcohol screens have been corrected, according to a report filed with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
The breach involved workers in the Burke County nuclear energy site’s construction area, where a $14 billion expansion is under way to add two reactors, said the report, dated May 21 and filed by Southern Nuclear Regulatory Affairs Director Chuck Pierce.
The drug-testing errors came to light March 9, when an official from Shaw Group – the project contractor – realized there were more workers badged for site access than were in the pool of workers subject to random drug and alcohol screens.
An audit found 23 workers cleared for site access who were not part of the pool, and also identified 357 workers in the testing pool who did not hold badges, the report said.
An investigation to determine the extent of the problem included audits of five randomly chosen weeks from October 2011 to February 2012. Each week yielded varying numbers of workers – from 33 to as many as 162 – who were badged, but not in the testing pool.
Officials also examined records from June 2010, six months after the construction site’s “fitness for duty” drug and alcohol screening program was created, and “concluded that it is possible that the errors in the random pool generation have been present since the inception of Shaw’s Fitness for Duty Program,” the report said.
Human error was the primary cause, with most of the work done by one manager without peer-review to verify accuracy.
Another cause was the use of an Excel spreadsheet that could be opened simultaneously by payroll, human resources and other departments.
Thus, changes made when one employee exited the program would be overwritten when someone else exited the same program.
In all, the investigation identified 1,103 workers who had not had drug/alcohol tests since their pre-employment screenings.
As part of the corrective action plan, those workers were placed into a newly created separate pool for random testing.
Other corrective actions included eliminating the use of spreadsheets that could be overwritten and instating procedures requiring more than one person to verify records.
Southern Nuclear told federal regulators it has also established monthly spot audits to make sure Shaw officials are managing the program properly.
“If the performance of Shaw’s Fitness for Duty program becomes unacceptable, Southern Nuclear will adjust its actions to include more stringent monitoring and/or transition to partial or full management of that program,” the report stated.