Gov't workers at nuclear reactors could be furloughed

by: Greg Suskin Updated:


YORK COUNTY, S.C. - As the government shutdown continues, thousands more federal workers are about to clock out.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which watches over the nation's 100 nuclear reactors, has announced furloughs.

If the government shutdown doesn't end by Thursday, about 3,600 employees will be sent home.

One of those is NRC spokesman Roger Hannah, out of the Atlanta office.

"As of close of business Thursday, if nothing happens in Washington, I will be home Friday, not getting paid," Hannah told Channel 9 by phone.

The NRC said about 300 people will remain at work during the furloughs, including at least two "resident inspectors" at each plant. Those NRC employees can respond to emergencies and act as investigators.

Hannah said there's another option too, if something happens.

"If something does occur, if there is an event or there is something, we do have provisions to call people back if they need to respond to an emergency event," he said.

Renad Lazar lives within a mile of the Catawba Nuclear Station in York County. She was shocked to learn that so many more federal workers could be furloughed.

"It's ridiculous. When you send all these government people home, that's just leaving us wide open to anybody," she said.

NRC officials said they don't expect the furloughs to cause any safety risk in the short run. However, some additional inspections and other NRC programs will end, until everyone is back at work.

Channel 9 spoke with Duke Energy about the looming furloughs Tuesday. The utility wouldn't comment, calling it a government issue, and referring our questions to the NRC. However, Duke officials did express that federal resident inspectors will remain on the job, and safety is still a top priority at both Charlotte area nuclear plants.