NRC Proposes Fine Against Uranium Operators

U.S. Enrichment Corp., faces a possible $88,000 fine for allegedly retaliating against a whistleblower.

The operator of a federal uranium enrichment plant in Paducah, Ky. faces a possible $88,000 fine for allegedly retaliating against a whistleblower who questioned safety at the facility.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) proposed the fine Tuesday against U.S. Enrichment Corp., Bethesda, Md. for discriminating against a manager who raised safety issues at the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant.

United States Enrichment Corp., runs the Paducah Gaseous Diffusion Plant for the Department of Energy.

The plant enriches uranium for use as nuclear reactor fuel.

The NRC Office of Investigation determined that the manager of quality systems at the Paducah plant was transferred in August 1998 to a nonmanagerial position in the training department after he expressed concerns about the Quality Assurance Program.

The NRC said the manager also told a supervisor he was concerned of possible adverse effects caused by the quality systems staff having to perform other activities.

When the NRC staff met with U.S. Enrichment officials in June for a predecisional enforcement conference, the company contended that the manager was transferred because of performance considerations.

According to an NRC statement released Tuesday, the decision to transfer the manager was based, in part, on his raising concerns about the Quality Assurance Program.

U.S. Enrichment has until Jan. 19 to either pay or challenge the fine, the second and largest fine the commission has issued against the company's Paducah operations.

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