The 20 million people who live within 50 miles of the Indian Point nuclear power near New York City are at tremendous risk, according to a lawsuit just filed by Clifton “Skip” Travis Jr., a former Indian Point worker. Here’s what Mr. Travis, who like many nuclear whistleblowers alleges a campaign of retaliation against him, says:
“I understand they’re in business to make money ... but my job, my concern, my obligation is to defend that facility against radiological sabotage,” Travis said during an interview Wednesday, frequently repeating his belief that a terrorist attack on the plant is inevitable. “It was never my intention to hurt them. ... This is not a vendetta. This is holding them accountable.”
The lawsuit paints a doomsday picture of what security lapses could mean to those living in the so-called “meltdown zone.”
Travis said that in each of the past two years, the plant’s force-on-force drills — where mock adversaries attack the plant — ended with the “terrorists” taking over their intended targets. And since he was hired, the terrorists have won at least half the time, he said.
One of the times the security force won, he said, was during a “choreographed” drill when Gagnon had the attackers run uphill at fixed positions because it was raining and he wanted to speed up the drill so nobody would get hurt.
Travis contends that company and Nuclear Regulatory Commission officials were so concerned that the plant would fail its triannual drill this year that they canceled it just a few days before it was scheduled in June, citing a “safety concern” that rifles used in the drills were emitting too much carbon dioxide.
He said the company rushed to have the security system, made by a company named ARINC, operational by Feb. 18, 2011, to avoid hefty fines by the NRC. Travis said the company expected him and other lieutenants to operate the system with little or no training and that they were ill-equipped to fix the system when it repeatedly failed.
Supervisors also encouraged employees to falsify records related to how much security training they received, according to the lawsuit. One employee filled out paperwork indicating he had received more than 60 hours of training — on a single day, the lawsuit alleges.
And there’s much more, like the fact “that the company encourages security staff to bring laptops so they can watch movies and play video games to keep from falling asleep during their shifts.” Says his attorney Amy Bellantoni, who filed the suit for “$20 million dollars in compensatory damages and $1.5 billion in punitive damages, …’The only way to make an impact ... is to hit them in their pocket.’”
The plant’s license is up for renewal and state officials, including Governor Cuomo and AG Schneiderman, want the plant shut down. But whether they can manage to do that, given the federal government’s preemption of the entire nuclear field, remains to be seen.