Hello everyone, my name is Mitch. I am relatively new to ATS and I have led an interesting life. I have made several references here on ATS that I had
worked in a nuclear power plant. Here is part of that story. I will be writing more in the weeks to come with more chapters about the same length. I
just hate reading long posts.
Before yesterday, I never realized that I worked at the only nuclear power plant to be shutdown by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for company
misconduct in the USA at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station located in Delta, Pa on the Susquehanna River. Here is some background on why it was
shutdown from the Three Mile Island Alert website.
Peach Bottom Atomic Power Plant shutdown background info
“In 1987, PECO (Philadelphia Electric Company) was ordered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to shutdown Peach Bottom-2 and -3 on March 31,
1987 due to operator misconduct, corporate malfeasance and blatant disregard for the health and safety of area. This was the first and only occasion
that the NRC ordered a nuclear power plant shut down. Zack Pate, President of the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations, declared that Peach Bottom
“was an embarrassment to the industry and to the nation...The grossly unprofessional behavior by a wide range of shift personnel...reflects a major
breakdown in the management of a nuclear facility.”
In 1988 my friend Steve Snyder who was a member of the Laborers International Union that provided the labor for Peach Bottoms’ contractors. He asked
me if I wanted to work at the plant and that he would speak to the union business agent to get me in. The plant was shutdown by the NRC at that time.
Unit 3 was undergoing a major pipe replacement by Chicago Bridge and Iron. I worked on Unit 2 which was under going routine maintenance provided by
United Engineering (UE). I never worked in Unit 3.
Once I arrived at the work site it about 2 weeks to get our physicals and security clearances. They did a complete physical including blood samples
and even an EKG was taken. However there was no drug or alcohol testing at that time. We took the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory)
psychological test about 600 questions and if you failed you went to see the company shrink. The security clearances required fingerprints which were
sent off to all of the local, state, national and international alphabet agencies or police.
Yes, we got paid during this time for sitting around playing cards mostly because you never knew how fast it would take for the security clearance
part. With the plant being shutdown and two outages going on at the same time there were thousands working there so it took more than the usual 3-4
days to get clearances completed. We also had some basic radiation exposure training about how it works and what exposure levels we are allowed to
get. They talked about plant procedures and the health physics team came in and spoke about contamination too. We took a multiple choice test which
was very easy.
Here is where the funny and interesting part starts.
I was standing in the hallway of the building we took our physicals and classes right outside the psychiatrists’ office and out the door walks this
guy arguing with her about why he was turned down for a security clearance. The guy said to her, “I am sane I have papers to prove it”. I had to
walk away before laughing. I found out later the guy had just gotten out of a mental hospital. I still do to this day but this is just the start of my
Once you had your security clearances you got an id, a key card w/4 digit code and a pencil dosimeter. The key card allowed you access too many rooms
in the plant but not all. We had more training and got checked to see if our health was good enough for a full face respirator. I found out later many
just faked the pulmonary test but I did not. We had to learn how to use the “half-body scanners” at the exit of the plant which checked to see it
we were carrying any radiation contamination on us.
The first day I worked inside the plant I stood “fire watch”. The reason you stood fire watch was because they might have turned off the smoke
detectors or fire suppressant systems in a room where work was going on. I know it is an easy job but I was the newbie so I got the worst fire watch
job. It took about an hour to draw the double coveralls and mask as I waited for the cutters/welders to get their gear I looked about nervously. One
of them asked me if I was claustrophobic and I replied, “No”. He said, “Good”. “Where are we going”, I asked. He never told me but I soon
found out we were going to the back-up water condenser. The three story tall condenser had one inch pipes running through it in layers about two feet
apart. Here I was hooked to a bullock on 200 feet of airline climbing into the dimly lit interior of the condenser dragging a fire extinguisher. You
could hardly anything more than several feet away from the light. There I lay wondering WTF am I doing here? Nothing is going to burn in here and what
would burn? I bet we were in there two or three weeks helping the iron workers as pipes were cut out and replaced.
Our normal duties were fire watch and to assist carpenters in building scaffolds, decontaminate pipe and other labor tasks.
The work was easy but often you went in a radioactive contaminated area you had to wear safety gear like canvas coveralls, rubber glove, plastic
booties and respirators if needed. It was very time consuming when you came out because you had to take off the safety gear and put in to barrels at
the exit pad/landing. This was time consuming and one day this painter named, Bradley, came out contaminated. Bradley made it out of the plant past
the half-body scanners and into the maintenance workers building however, when he went to go home later that day Bradley set the exit alarms off as he
was leaving work. Ole Bradley was contaminated… But how did he get that way? Evidently, Bradley had to go poop while he was working in the torus. He
didn’t feel like taking the time to un-suit and go poop. No, Bradley decided to poop in one of the 5-gallon paint buckets they had used and wipe
with some of the rags he brought in. Well, he ass was contaminated so they took him to the decontamination room and scrubbed him down until he was
Once we were loading metal boxes of compressed low-level radioactive waste onto a trailer and we started joking about how the mob controls the nuclear
waste industry because the trucking hauling the waste was “Hittman Trucking” out of Chicago, IL. We though it was ironic.
One beautiful sunny summer day we were loading something on a trailer at the south end of the plant where the main power lines leave the plant. There
were 10 or so PECO employees standing around as we rigged up this gear for a crane to load on the truck. We were all standing there watching as the
crane swing the equipment over when a bright blue bolt of lighting arced off the nearby power line and a loud "crack" broke the air. we all just
started looking around at eachother. The crane was toast but luckily the operator was grounded out of the circuit.
My crew gets contaminated
Bubble suit madness
The “crank” sting
Sam, the survivor who won’t take crap off anyone
The Fuel floor
Why Fukushima scares the crap out of me