Peach Bottom nuclear plant control room operator fails drug test

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Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station

PEACH BOTTOM, Lancaster County — A control room operator at the Peach Bottom nuclear plant lost access to the plant after failing a controlled substance test, a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesperson confirmed Thursday.

Exelon, which owns the plant, notified the NRC that the employee failed a fitness-for-duty test. The NRC is investigating, and has asked Exelon to provide more information, the spokesperson said.

The operator’s test showed the presence of a controlled substance, according to Neil Sheehan, an NRC spokesman.

According to the NRC, fitness-for-duty tests check whether plant workers have taken drugs or alcohol beyond allowable levels. In this case, the employee’s plant access was placed on administrative hold following the failed test. The company normally keeps that hold in place until a further review of the employee is conducted, Sheehan said.

“We consider control room operators to be in a position of high responsibility and, in line with that, a failed test indicating substance use that could impair job performance is taken very seriously,” Sheehan said in a statement.

“A positive drug or alcohol test involving a control room operator is a rare occurrence. It takes years of training to become an operator and then regular retraining and re-qualification in subsequent years.”

UPDATE: 1:27 p.m.: Megan Lewatowski, communications manager at Exelon, issued the following statement for the company Thursday afternoon:

“On November 3, 2017, a licensed operator at Peach Bottom Atomic Power Station failed a fitness for duty test prior to beginning their shift. The employee’s access privileges have been revoked and a work performance investigation is ongoing.

“Screenings are an important part of Exelon’s rigorous Fitness for Duty Program. All nuclear employees are subject to drug and alcohol screenings, psychological tests, and background investigations.  Nuclear employees also participate in Exelon’s comprehensive behavioral observation program, which holds workers accountable for recognizing and immediately reporting potential violations.

“Failure to satisfy any of these requirements could result in immediate removal of station access or termination of employment.”