Former Plant Manager of a Nuclear Facility Files Whistleblower Suit

A former manager of the San Onofre Nuclear facility, one of two nuclear power plants in California, is suing the California utility company, South California Edison, charging that the company wrongfully terminated him in retaliation for his efforts to blow the whistle on safety violations at the facility .

Paul Diaz, the plaintiff in the case, was fired after the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission sent a warning letter in March, 2010, to Southern California Edison, the principal owner of the San Onofre plant. It rebuked the utility for a workplace climate that, the agency said, had the “chilling effect” of preventing employees from raising safety concerns.

Diaz’s supervisors tried to dissuade him from airing safety issues. “They told him: ‘Don’t be a superhero,’” she said.

In October, Diaz, 35, was fired.

According to the suit, Southern California Edison was warned by nuclear regulators in the March, 2010, letter as a result of anonymous complaints sent via email about safety shortcuts, incomplete testing, falsified records and “a culture of cover-up.” The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified damages, also says that the long hours and frequent demands for overtime led to frequent employee fatigue.

The company issued a statement saying that officials had not yet received the lawsuit and would not comment on its allegations. “However, we can say that, by policy, SCE considers retaliation against employees who raise safety concerns a termination offense,” the statement said.