One of the weapons that the anti-nuclear movement used against nuclear power in the first Nuclear Age was the testimony of disgruntled workers who often had legitimate concerns about the way that their particular slice of the industry was being managed. In some cases, the specific workers became so disillusioned by their particular experience that they became ardent foes of the entire technology. Even when they did not, their conflicts and challenges of their management were often taken out of context and used to demonstrate that there were “issues” associated with nuclear fission power.
To me, the visibility of “issues” and “controversy” is NO reason to stop using a valuable technology. In fact, I think it is rather encouraging to know that there are workers who care enough to make their concerns public. One of the things I try to explain to people who have never been associated with the industry is that it is one of the least hierarchical bodies of people that I know. Even within the military portion of the technology field, we are trained from day one that every operator and maintainer has a personal responsibility to do their jobs, to put safety at the very top of the priority list and to resist orders that require any action that may compromise safety.
Sometimes I think that is one of the reasons that nuclear power has not been terribly popular with decision makers in government and industry. Believe it or not, there are some people placed in leadership positions in this world who are threatened by having to manage a bunch of smart workers with questioning attitudes who do not simply follow orders. There is even a derogatory phrase that some of you might have heard about “herding cats.” (I happen to like cats, especially because they demonstrate a sense of independence and are difficult to train to follow orders.)
David Hoffman is a former senior licensed operator at FPL’s Turkey Point. He is now working somewhere else in the industry after having disagreements with the management at the plant. I know very little about this particular story, but I just read a great letter to the editor of the Miami Herald from Mr. Hoffman that I think deserves some kudos.
(Disclosure: I have a soft spot in my heart for FPL, since it was the source of many good things during my father’s 35 years of employment at the company and continues to be a contributor to my mother’s retirement comfort. However, I do not have a soft spot in my head and realize that particular managers at any company can establish difficult working environments. Been there, hope I have not done that.)
Here is a quote from that letter:
I would like to ensure everyone that I fully support nuclear power in the United States. The technology used today is safe and extremely reliable for the production of electricity. The amount of energy produced by commercial nuclear power plants is simply awesome. It is truly hard to put in words how much energy is contained in these reactors.
The issues identified in The Miami Herald regarding the pending lawsuits between FPL and myself should not deter anyone from believing in the use of nuclear power as a reliable means of electricity production today or as a partial solution to our nation’s energy crisis. I worked at Turkey Point in the operations department for about 10 years, and I still work in the industry today while my family lives in Miami.
Thank you, David, for clearly articulating why your disagreement with plant management should not be used by the opposition.