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Court papers: Nuclear feud at Fla. plant

March 12, 2009 at 5:46 PM

HOMESTEAD, Fla., March 12 (UPI) -- Florida Power & Light Co. regularly puts costs savings ahead of safety, a top nuclear plant operator said in resigning from the Florida utility.

The utility denied the charges laid by David Hoffman, who resigned Feb. 26, 2008, after being ordered by FPL executives to put two reactors at the Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station near Homestead, Fla., back online within 12 hours of an automatic shutdown triggered by a utility worker's blunder.

Hoffman had told the executives putting the reactors back online so soon would be dangerous, considering all the systems that needed to be checked, he wrote in a resignation letter.

The letter -- offering a rare insight into safety complaints made by nuclear workers -- came to light because FPL is suing Hoffman for the return of a bonus, and he's charging in a countersuit the utility is improperly trying to silence his safety complaints, The Miami Herald reported.

Nuclear workers are often forbidden by contract from saying anything negative about their bosses, the newspaper said.

Turkey Point is safe and Hoffman's claims were "made out of self-interest, not the public interest," FPL spokesman Tom Veenstra told the Herald in an e-mail.

One of Hoffman's concerns was an unsafe buildup of neutron-absorbing xenon-135, his letter said.

Bringing a reactor back online after 10 or 11 hours "is really asking for trouble," University of California, Berkeley, nuclear engineering professor E.C. Morse told the newspaper.

In the end, it took FPL a week to get both reactors restarted, which Veenstra noted.

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