Federal regulators proposed fines totaling $36,400 Friday against Chicago Bridge & Iron – Plant Vogtle’s primary construction contractor – over issues that include the firing of a supervisor who raised safety concerns at a former Shaw Group facility in Louisiana.
The notice from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the incidents occurred before CB&I took over Shaw Group and its companies – a process that became final in February.
According to a summary released by the NRC, there were two violations of employee protection requirements at Shaw Nuclear Services.
A quality assurance supervisor was fired in May 2011 for notifying Shaw and Louisiana Energy Services, an NRC licensee, of potentially faulty rebar that might have been shipped to its National Enrichment Facility in New Mexico by a third-party vendor. The second violation involved language in Shaw’s corporate code of conduct that could prohibit or discourage workers from providing information to the NRC.
Because Shaw did not identify the violations or correct them after the NRC had identified them, the normal civil penalty of $18,200 was doubled.
In a separate action, the NRC described a “chilled work environment” at another former Shaw facility where workers “hesitant to raise safety concerns through company channels” have reported issues directly to the NRC.
In a letter to CB&I president and CEO Philip K. Asherman, the NRC’s Office of New Reactors director Glenn Tracy asked that the company improve the safety culture at its facility in Lake Charles, La., formerly
known as Shaw Modular Solutions.
There are more than 600 vendors supplying safety-related goods and services to the nuclear industry, but about 35 percent of vendor-related safety allegations received by the NRC from January 2010 through January 2013 involved the Lake Charles facility, regulators said.
The review of the complaints did not identify specific quality issues with parts supplied by Shaw or CB&I, but the significant number of employee concerns “suggests a poor environment for raising safety concerns within the company.”
Tracy acknowledged in the letter that CB&I is implementing management changes at the former Shaw companies and asked that the company respond within 30 days and explain corrective actions it intends to take to improve the work environment at the Lake Charles facility. The company must also inform employees about the letter and corrective actions.
CB&I spokeswoman Gentry Bran said corrective efforts are underway.
“We take these matters very seriously,” she said. “CB&I will take immediate action to create and promote a healthy safety culture, where all employees feel open to identify issues and express concerns.”