CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) — The Better Government Association (BGA) is raising questions about the results of whistleblower complaints made to the federal agency responsible for safety at the country’s 61 nuclear power plants.

The BGA says that of the nearly 700 complaints made to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over the previous seven years, a third were investigated and zero were found to have merit.

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BGA President Andy Shaw says the statistics are shocking. “The bottom line here is that the nuclear power companies are, essentially, running their own industry. They’re self-policing and self-regulating. The oversight commission seems to be worthless.”

NRC spokeswoman Viktoria Mitlyng, however, disputes the BGA’s interpretation. She says the Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigates all allegations of safety failures or potential concerns. She says those are handled separately from the kind of complaints the BGA is raising, which have to do with power plant employees who allege they were retaliated against in some way for raising safety concerns about the plants.

According to Mitlyng, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission reviews all complaints, not just a third. She says about a quarter of the cases go on to some sort of arbitration process. But, she points out, the NRC must meet three criteria in substantiating a discrimination case:

  1. That an employee has a safety concern;
  2. That there was retaliation by the power plant company;
  3. That there was retaliation because of that safety concern

Mitlyng says the bar for filing complaints is low; the bar for proving them high.

Complaints about safety concerns that do not involve allegations of retaliation are not included in the 687 complaints to which the BGA refers, she says.

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“We take safety [of nuclear power plants] very seriously,” Mitlyng said.