||[Mar. 22nd, 2008|01:40 pm]
BUCHANAN - Indian Point has suspended two security guards who tested positive for cocaine use this week, according to documents obtained by The Journal News and individuals familiar with the incidents.
"It's an unfortunate coincidence," Indian Point spokesman Jim Steets said yesterday of the incidents, which company officials say are unconnected. "But it highlights the benefit of our fitness-for-duty program that sifts out substance abuse and ensures protection of the public."
He said there was no indication of widespread use of cocaine at the nuclear plant.
Steets said in the first instance, a female security guard did not respond by radio Wednesday when she was supposed to check in with the central command post.
Following procedure, another guard was dispatched to track her down. She was found sick in the bathroom.
Because she had left her post without notifying anyone and hadn't responded when called, she automatically was tested for drugs and alcohol.
That urinalysis turned up positive for cocaine, and she was placed on paid administrative leave for two weeks.
In an incident Thursday, a security employee who had been gone for more than 30 days on vacation and serving a military commitment was tested according to procedures.
Anyone who isn't on-site for 30 days or more automatically is tested before their credentials are revalidated.
That urinalysis also showed a positive result for cocaine and he was put on paid administrative leave for two weeks as well.
Neither name was released and no criminal charges were brought against the workers because neither was in possession of any drugs. Both are employees of Entergy Nuclear, the company that owns and operates Indian Point, and both have been admitted to the company's employee assistance program.
Steets said neither had tested positive for drugs before and would be allowed to return to work. He said the industry and Entergy follow policies of two-strikes-and-you're-out.
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission was notified, though that is not required unless the person involved is a supervisor or a control room operator.
Three workers at the plant have tested positive for drugs or alcohol in a month. A supervisor for an outside contractor was fired from the plant after he tested positive for alcohol during a mid-morning random test on Feb. 20.
NRC spokesman Neil Sheehan said the company's testing program is working properly and three employees out of about 1,300 shows that the problem is not widespread.
"It is a good sign that their fitness-for-duty program appears to be capturing these individuals very quickly and the company is taking the correct steps," Sheehan said. "Of course there is zero-tolerance for this behavior, but we're satisfied with how the company is handling the situation."
Sheehan said the NRC inspects plants' fitness-for-duty programs as part of its routine security inspections.
"The security program at the plant were not compromised by either of these events," he said. "It would have been capable of meeting any threat."
The top elected officials on either side of the Hudson River weren't quite so calm about the incidents.
"It would appear this independent study is coming at a very good time," said C.J. Miller, spokeswoman for Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef, referring to Entergy's commissioning of an outside group to review the nuclear plants' operations.
Susan Tolchin, chief advisor for Westchester County Executive Andrew Spano, said she was almost speechless hearing about it.
"It's a major concern. Here they have employees on cocaine, carrying guns, working at the plant," Tolchin said. "What does that say about all the procedures they have in place to keep this plant safe and secure? These people should be fired; every employee should be tested and those who have drugs in their systems should be immediately let go."