Entergy sued over lax security at NY nuclear plant

Sept 13 Thu Sep 13, 2012 12:36pm EDT

Sept 13 (Reuters) - A security guard at the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York state sued the facility's owner, Entergy Corp, for more than $1.5 billion for emotional distress, claiming lax security at the plant.

Clifton Travis, who has been employed at the plant since 2008 and was still on the Entergy payroll, claimed in his lawsuit that Entergy encouraged security personnel to play video games and watch movies to keep them occupied during their shifts.

He alleged the company has not properly trained security personnel on how to operate the computerized security system, which he claimed fails repeatedly.

Travis, 47, also said the company was improperly storing nuclear waste materials at the plant, and said the plant failed a force-on-force drill, during which mock adversaries tested the plant's security defenses.

Entergy said Indian Point has been judged a safe and secure facility by the federal government and independent reviewers.

"Entergy has spent more than $100 million at Indian Point since September 11 (2001) to secure the facility," Entergy spokesman Jerry Nappi told Reuters. He declined to comment directly on the lawsuit.

The suit was filed in the New York Supreme Court in Westchester County on Sept. 11, seeking compensatory damages of $20 million and punitive damages of $1.5 billion.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), which oversees the safety and security of the nation's nuclear facilities, said it could not comment on the lawsuit, on specifics regarding the plant's security program, or on any investigations it has undertaken.

The NRC said it regularly inspects the security program at the plant, including force-on-force exercises.

The NRC also said it conducts a program that allows plant employees to raise concerns with the agency on an anonymous basis. The NRC, however, declined to say whether Travis had raised concerns with the agency since its allegations program is anonymous.

NOT A NUISANCE SUIT

Travis' lawyer, Amy Bellantoni of Scarsdale, New York, said punitive damages are designed to punish and deter a defendant. She said Entergy makes about $4 million a day and "the only way to hurt them is to hit them in the pocket."

Bellantoni said $1.5 billion represents about two years of profits for Entergy, adding it was not a nuisance lawsuit, noting her client was severely affected by the deterioration of the safety at the plant.

She said Travis took a leave of absence from his job in November 2011 due to the severe emotional impact on him.

While his doctor cleared him to return last March, Entergy has barred him from returning to the plant.

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