SEABROOK — The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is keeping a close eye on developments at the Seabrook Station nuclear power plant, where a contract impasse between labor and management could lead to a lockout of unionized personnel on Dec. 2, when the current contract expires.
That would leave management or non-union personnel at the controls of the nuclear power plant.
If that occurs, the NRC would closely monitor operations to ensure that the plant continues to operate safely and in accordance with federal regulations, according to a statement issued on Wednesday by Neil Sheehan, NRC spokesperson for Region 1, which regulates 17 nuclear power plants in the northeastern United States.
In the event of a lockout, inspectors from the NRC would supplement two on-site inspectors assigned to the plant on a full-time basis to provide increased oversight, Sheehan said.
"This enhanced oversight would include 24-hour-a-day coverage for at least the first 48 hours of a walkout and enhanced coverage for the duration of a strike," he said.
The plant is owned by NextEra Energy of Juno, Fla.
"The NRC has performed an inspection of NextEra's strike contingency plans," Sheehan said. "The purpose of the review was to evaluate the adequacy of the company's plans, which cover areas that include staffing. No issues or concerns have been identified to date."
Sheehan said there have been strikes at the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Massachusetts, and at the Nine Mile Point plant in upstate New York in recent years.
"No operational problems occurred during either walkout," he said.
A federal mediator arrived at the Seabrook power plant on Wednesday, hoping to break the deadlock between NextEra and the Utility Workers Union of America, AFL-CIO.
The union represents 226 workers who specialize in mechanical and electrical positions at the power plant, including instrumentation, calibration and control room operators. The plant employs about 670 overall, the balance of which are not unionized, including management, planners and schedulers.
The main sticking point, according to management and labor, has been a proposal by management to end premium pay for weekend work, and instead create rotating shifts that include weekend coverage at regular pay.
While the NRC statement refers to the possibility of a strike, both union and management are calling it a lockout, in which management bars the unionized personnel from the building until the contract is resolved.
"We communicated with the union on Tuesday that pending an agreement by midnight, Dec. 2, there will be a lockout," said Seabrook Station spokesperson Al Griffith.