George Galatis was a senior nuclear engineer and whistleblower who reported safety problems at the Millstone 1 Nuclear Power Plant, relating to reactor refueling procedures, in 1996. The unsafe procedures meant that spent fuel rod pools at Unit 1 had the potential to boil, possibly releasing radioactive steam throughout the plant.
Every 18 months the Millstone 1 nuclear reactor was shut down so the fuel rods that make up its core could be replaced; the old rods, radioactive and burning hot, were moved into a 40-feet-deep body of water called the spent-fuel pool. One-third of the rods were moved into the pool under normal conditions. But in the 1990s Galatis realized that Millstone was routinely performing "full-core off-loads," moving all the hot fuel into the spent-fuel pool. In addition, the Millstone 1 routine ignored the mandated 250 hour cool-down period before a full core off-load, and sometimes the fuel was moved just 65 hours after shutdown, a violation that melted the boots of one worker. By sidestepping the safety requirements in this way, Millstone saved about two weeks of downtime for each reactor refueling—during which Northeast Utilities had to pay $500,000 a day for replacement power.
Galatis eventually took his concerns to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, to find that they had "known about the unsafe procedures for years". As a result of going to the NRC, Galatis experienced "subtle forms of harassment, retaliation, and intimidation".
George Galatis was the subject of a Time magazine cover story on March 4, 1996. Millstone 1 was permanently closed in July 1998.
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