WASHINGTON, Aug. 25, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- The Nuclear Regulatory Commission took the unprecedented step of issuing a sizable monetary penalty against the Tennessee Valley Administration (TVA) and two TVA executives for retaliating against two whistleblowers, both represented by Bernabei & Kabat, PLLC (Washington, D.C.).
The NRC found that Joseph Shea, then Vice President for Regulatory Affairs (now Vice President for Nuclear Technology Innovation), and Erin Henderson, then Director of Corporate Nuclear Licensing, retaliated against the two whistleblowers. The NRC found that both whistleblowers engaged in protected activity when they reported and protested unsafe work conditions, including a "chilled work environment" that deterred TVA employees from reporting nuclear safety issues. The NRC further found that Shea and Henderson retaliated when they placed both employees on administrative leave, conducted spurious "investigations" of the employees, and then terminated the employees. These actions "were deliberate," which the NRC considers to be "significant because of the potential that individuals might not raise safety issues for fear of retaliation."
The NRC prohibited Shea from working in the nuclear industry or any other NRC-licensed activity for the next 5 years – a penalty that takes effect immediately. The NRC required Henderson to submit a response to the findings before the NRC makes a final decision.
The NRC also imposed a monetary penalty on TVA of $606,492, because TVA failed to identify the problems or take adequate corrective actions. It has been nearly two decades since the NRC imposed a monetary penalty on TVA for retaliating against whistleblowers. Further, TVA's Office of General Counsel was part of the retaliation, since TVA's in-house attorneys "investigated" the two whistleblowers in an attempt to create a justification for terminating them, instead of addressing the problems that the whistleblowers were raising.
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