New York Nuclear Power Plant Avoids Commission Citation for Background Check Mishap

By Michael Klazema on 12/6/2013

The three-unit Indian Point nuclear power plant based in Buchanan, New York narrowly avoided a run-in with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission over a discrepancy between an employee’s company file and their background check. According to a report published recently by the Hudson Valley Reporter, the Indian Point power plant requires workers to disclose their full law-related personal history. While the EEOC dictates that employers can only turn away applicants on the basis of actual criminal convictions, it appears that the Indian Point power plant has also been taking the arrest histories of its employees into account in making some company decisions.

It isn’t clear whether or not the power plant maintains a policy of rejecting employees on the basis of an arrest record. However, the Hudson Valley Reporter did make it seem as if the Indian Point power plant—and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as a whole—views arrests as part of an employee’s criminal history.

The background check discrepancy took place when three Indian Point employees were applying for clearance to enter the James A. Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Station. The Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Station is another New York power plant, located in the town of Scriba. Normally, Indian Point employees would have no reason to enter that particular plant, but after an outage took place at Fitzpatrick last year, it required additional support staff to rectify the problem. Indian Point received the distress call, and its employees sprang into action to help.

To gain clearance into the power plant, the Indian Point workers had to disclose the entirety of their criminal-related history, including arrests, on an authorization form. That information was then to be confirmed via background check in order to determine whether or not the Nuclear Regulatory Commission could authorize the Indian Point support staff as “trustworthy” and “reliable” enough to earn “unescorted access” to nuclear facilities.

This week, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission found that the authorization forms had been falsified by Indian Point’s security coordinator. As it turns out, the owner of the Indian Point power plant caught the falsification last year, finding that one of the support staff workers had been authorized for duty at the Fitzpatrick Nuclear Power Station despite the fact that his or her criminal history report did not quite match up with a corresponding FBI background check.

That particular employee had an arrest they had failed to report on the authorization papers, which came up on an FBI criminal history check. While it appears that the power plant does observe EEOC guidelines, and wouldn’t have rejected the employee or limited his or her work due to the one arrest instance, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission does dictate that the plant’s security coordinator hold follow-up meetings with any employees whose background checks show discrepancies with their paperwork. The follow-up meeting is meant to clear up any questions of reliability, after which the security coordinator can authorize the employee.

However, that follow-up meeting never took place in this case, meaning that the real offense is against the security coordinator. Since the owner of Indian Point plant realized their security coordinator’s offense last year—and fired him for falsifying authorization documents—the power plant won’t face any fines or citations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. No reports indicate what happened to the employee with the arrest history, however, begging the question of how the EEOC might view the practices of the Indian Power Plant and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.


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