Safety Officer Fired for Shutting Down Dangerous Nuclear Reactor

Friday, September 21, 2012

Mark W. Hicks is suing his former employer claiming he was fired for following federal safety procedures that mandated a Florida nuclear power plant reactor be shut down to avoid catastrophe.


Hicks, who worked as operations manager at the St. Lucie power plant, claims in his lawsuit that Florida Power & Light (FPL) terminated his employment after he discovered a leak in the plant’s coolant system that could have led to a meltdown. On November 21, 2009, Hicks and others noticed that a safety relief valve had lifted, causing a leakage of coolant.  Following federal regulations, he says he ordered the reactor shut down to avoid an accident similar to the 1979 Three Mile Island incident in Middletown, Pennsylvania. Hicks reported what he had done to his superiors, including FPL executive vice president Manoochehr Nazar, who ordered Hicks to restart the reactor. Hicks refused.


The plaintiff claims the utility didn’t want to power down the reactor and make repairs in order to save money. According to the lawsuit, it was later determined that various repairs did have to be made, costing FPL $6 million. Hicks was put on probation, his pay was cut and he was eventually fired. He is seeking back pay, lost benefits and other compensatory damages.


Michael Waldron, FPL's nuclear communications director, defended his company, claiming that “Mr. Hicks' claims are a work of fiction filled with timelines that don't match the record, inflammatory personal attacks and out and out lies,”

-David Wallechinsky, Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Disturbing Tale From Florida Nuclear Plant (by Marimer Matos, Courthouse News Service)

Former Saint Lucie Nuclear Plant Manager Says He Was Fired for Preventing Meltdown (by Ariel Barkhurst, South Florida Sun Sentinel)

Mark Hicks v. Florida Power & Light Co. (Florida Circuit Court, Nineteenth District) (pdf)


William Corcoran 7 years ago
An inescapable fact is that persons and other entities engaged in wrongdoing covering up are provided with the basis for perceiving that they will benefit from impeding, deterring, harassing, intimidating, and otherwise mistreating whistleblowers. Observation: Only rarely is a private individual punished for impeding, deterring, harassing, intimidating, and otherwise mistreating whistleblowers. Observation: Even when organizations are punished for impeding, deterring, and mistreating whistleblowers the reports of the punishment usually include enough information for potential whistleblowers to conclude that the actual whistleblowers went through severe ordeals on the path to justice. Observation: For years nuclear industry executives used the following quotation to creating a chilling effect on its critics and to justify disrespecting them. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.― Theodore Roosevelt Observation: Even the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, which deals with wrongdoing to whistleblowers, admits to not pursuing the wrongdoers , but rather just “helping the whistleblowers.” Observation: The case of Tyler Shultz, a Theranos whistleblower, is an example of how a well-connected concerned individual can be treated for stepping out of line and reporting concerns, at first through channels . Quotation: “Fraud is not a trade secret.”-Tyler Shultz, a Theranos whistleblower Observation: How AMTRAK treated a concerned worker is, unfortunately, a typical “shot across the bow” for other potential whistleblowers. Even the publication of the worker’s prevailing reinforces the message to potential whistleblowers to keep their heads down. Lesson to be Learned (LTBL): Blowing the whistle is often a life-altering and/or career-limiting event. Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Investigation Practice (RAGAGIP): Find out who knew what, when they knew it, how they found it out, and what they did about it. Recognized and Generally Accepted Good Investigation Practice (RAGAGIP): When harmful conditions, behaviors, actions, and inactions were known earlier find out the causation of the reporting inactions.
Ann 11 years ago
If it was later determined that the repairs had to be made, then this seems to vindicate Mr. Hicks. It's much better to pay $6 million in repairs than to take a chance of a meltdown. Japan's nuclear meltdowns has almost bankrupted the company that ran the power plant there. Not to mention the horrific amount of nuclear radiation released into the Pacific Ocean and over Japan. In addition, stories of illnesses in Japan's children due to radiation exposure are beginning to emerge. Keep on top of this issue at these sterling sites: www dot enenews dot com www dot nuclearhotseat dot com (excellent interviews) www dot enviroreporter dot com www dot enformable dot com RadChick on Facebook

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