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In California, Nuclear Plant Workers Reported Safety Violations, Faced Reprisals
Federal regulators told CBS News that the San Onofre nuclear plant is safe. They say the plant has made improvements in its management style, BUT THEY WANT TO SEE MORE. Local residents are watching very closely.
The explosions at the Fukushima nuclear complex in Japan terrified people as far away as San Clemente, California ... home to the San Onofre nuclear plant.
The 28-year old plant is just five miles from an earthquake fault. Like Fukushima, it has a long history of management problems and safety violations including faulty diesel generators, falsified fire watch reports, and inoperable emergency batteries.
Mike Mason worked at San Onofre for 30 years - Rick Busnardo for 25. They were in charge of making canisters to store spent nuclear fuel -- one of the biggest worries right now at the Japan plant. In 2008, they say they discovered an employee was welding the canisters incorrectly.
Mason and Busnardo were so concerend they took their issue to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. They weren't alone. By 2009, complaints related to safety from San Onofre workers hit nearly TEN times the industry average.
James Chambers, a 27 year veteran of San Onofre, helped ensure the plant was operating within its safety guidelines. He says management pressured him to stop making complaints.
Mason and Busnardo retired claiming unfair retaliation. They are currently appealing a Labor Department decision that found no violation of their whistle blower rights. Southern California Edison, the utility that runs the plant, declined to be interviewed... but in a written statement said: "Our highest priority is protecting the health and safety of the public….employees are encouraged to bring forward safety concerns without fear of retaliation"
Federal regulators tell CBS News San Onofre is safe and say the plant has made improvements in its management style, but they want to see more. Something local residents will be watching very closely. Terry McCarthy CBS News San Clemente California.
Note: Southern California Edison runs the plant.
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