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Friday, September 20, 2013

Drugs, Alcohol, and Nuclear Power Catastrophes

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As hundreds of tons of nuclear radioactive contaminated water spills into the Pacific Ocean in the wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, there are many calling for a stoppage on nuclear power projects throughout the world and it’s not without merit; after the planet has seen what lack of oversight and control government agencies have regarding such projects. There is no question, the Fukushima accident was as they call it, “an act of God” incident, one where Mother Nature played her part in the facilities demise. However, how we decide what is a safe location for nuclear projects and how human beings respond to such calamities is of great question.

One would think that after Fukushima, people involved in the nuclear power industry would double their efforts to ensure that accidents be avoided at all costs. Such as only having facilities in areas where nature cannot wreak havoc and making sure that employees of such programs be vetted more than ever. Unfortunately, the latter is far from being accomplished, questions of competence and employee substance abuse appear to be rampant, according to a new report.

Employee violations regarding drugs and alcohol are on the rise at U.S. nuclear plants finds the non-profit group Fairewinds Energy Education. Incidents have increased from about one a month to almost one a week over the last five years.

Drug and alcohol violations occurred mostly in southeastern states; such as, drinking alcohol in a protected area and testing positive for marijuana and cocaine. 

Fitness For Duty, is a program that nuclear reactor owners are required to implement, in order to be sure that all personnel who have access to their power plants are drug and alcohol free and have no psychological issues. Shockingly, Fitness For Duty violations in the United States have more than doubled in the past five years. The report found that alcohol related events, have nearly quadrupled.

“The data unequivocally demonstrates that workforce personnel and licensed reactor operators are under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs while on-duty, despite the knowledge that such actions when caught can end careers, and that programs are in place that have been designed to identify those who are under the influence, indicating serious addictive issues not occasional social consumption of alcohol and drugs,” the report states.

“Not only are workers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs while on the job, they are also bringing that same contraband into work with them, in some cases with documented evidence to determine there was intent to distribute.”

No matter the causes that lead up to a nuclear catastrophe, it is more than clear, historically speaking that human error is either the initial cause or a mitigating factor in just how bad the failure becomes. It is fair to say that employees of nuclear power facilities should be held to a higher standard than perhaps any other industry, especially when it comes to drugs and alcohol use.

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