The Nuclear Regulatory Commission on October 29 imposed a civil penalty of $606,942 on the Tennessee Valley Authority for violating the agency’s rules involving employee protection, after proposing the fine and issuing four related violation notices in August.
Following investigations completed in October 2019 and January 2020, the NRC concluded that two former TVA employees had been subjected to reprisals for raising concerns regarding a chilled work environment.
In a November 4 Federal Register notice, the NRC notes that TVA responded to the proposed fine on September 23, denying all four violations and arguing (unsuccessfully) that “if the NRC continues to believe that the violations occurred, then at a minimum the NRC should reduce the severity level of the alleged violations and commensurately reduce the civil penalty.”
Specifics: According to the NRC, in March 2018 an employee at the TVA’s Sequoyah nuclear plant raised concerns about a chilled work environment, filing complaints with the utility’s employee concerns program. In response, TVA’s director of corporate nuclear licensing filed a complaint against the employee, triggering an investigation that placed the employee on paid administrative leave, which ultimately led to the employee’s resignation in August 2018.
Also in March 2018, a second TVA employee was discriminated against for raising work environment concerns, the NRC said. This employee was also placed on paid administrative leave—again, following a complaint filed by the corporate nuclear licensing director—and later terminated. In this case, TVA’s vice president of regulatory affairs “played a significant role in the decision-making process to place the former employee on paid administrative leave and terminate the former employee,” according to the agency.