NRG's VP Kevin Howell mysteriously dumped
almost 25,000 company shares last week, selling them of at $43 per
after a failed attempt to buy back $4.7 billion of senior debt. Two
days later the executive VP followed suit with 6,500 shares in the same
pay range. Still, the new nuclear-plant owner and prospective operator
newbie nukes at South Texas Nuclear Project has some more than the sale
to explain away, as we write in our Queque this week. The U.S. Nuclear
Regulatory Commission is asking
plant operators to elaborate on their security policies, with
a special focus on sleeping guards, I'm told.
"Several of our licensees have had instances of inattentive security
officers," said Roy Zimmerman, director of the Office of Nuclear
Security and Incident Response. "While multiple layers of defense at
each site maintained its security, the NRC is concerned that,
collectively, these incidents are a sign that some licensees are not
giving appropriate attention to the effectiveness of this portion of
their security programs."
For San Antonio's 40-percent power solution, South Texas Nuclear Project,
there will likely be detailed references regarding why one-third of
private security contractor Wackenhut's guards have repeatedly stated
that they knew of fellow officers who had been harassed by management
for raising potential security concerns at the plant.
Now such harassment isn't new in the nuke world. It was endemic during
the construction of both STNP and North Texas' Comanche Peak. Dated but thoroughly fascinating reading on the history of both Texas
plants til about 2003 can be found at Texas
In 2002, the NRC signaled out three Wackenhut-guarded nuclear power
plants for in-depth review due to the high number of security-related
employee allegations, according to the Service Employees International
the 2001 survey, Wackenhut was identified as a "Priority Level 1"
organization – the worst possible result - because of its
"relatively low" results compared to the composite rating for STP as a
whole on each of the four dimensions surveyed, 1) nuclear safety
culture, 2) safety conscious work environment, 3) general culture and
work environment, and 4) leadership, management and supervisory skills
and practices.  Wackenhut's scores required "further
evaluation" and "remedial action in the near-term." Wackenhut
was also identified as a "Priority Level 3" organization because of its
low ratings compared to industry standards.
In the 2003 survey, obtained by SEIU through a Freedom of Information
Act request, Wackenhut's already poor performance deteriorated
further. Wackenhut was again rated as a "Priority Level 1"
organization because of its "relatively low" results compared with
STP's general performance.
Moreover, its performance against the industry worsened from "Priority
Level 3" to "Priority Level 2."  As a result, STP's
president told NRC that "formal action plans" will be prepared to
address the survey results.
In both 2001 and 2003, 31 percent of Wackenhut employees surveyed at
the South Texas plant said they knew of someone who experienced a
negative reaction from supervision or management for having raised an
issue or concern related to nuclear safety. …
In response to a Freedom of Information Act Request filed in July 2004
by SEIU, however, NRC was unable to locate any documents indicating
that STP's promised formal action plans had been developed for
Wackenhut or that evaluation of its performance or remedial action had
The stock dump wasn't related to the company's
withdrawal of a planned wind farm in Gilispie County, where
hardcore sight-liners fought off the monstrous windmills for scenic and
tourism-related concerns. (I know that I would never set foot in
Fredericksburg again with lethargically turning blades feeding green
energy into the power grid miles in the distance. Okay. That's a joke,
for you cold calculists.)
Perhaps they'll go after those "90
percent" of other Texas counties where State Senator Troy
Fraser says wind farms are wanted. Just don't try 'em in the Gulf or
near the coast, where the birders will bust you every which way, in
more shameful NIMBYism.
The company, anticipating the day CO2 is regulated as a pollutant, is
working on a DOE-assisted project to carbon-capture five percent
of C02 emissions at the WA Parish coal plant outside Sugar Land. The
slurry they save will be pumped underground to recover more oil from
depleteing oil fields.
NRG is also busy sassing for a new coal plant in Limestone
County, recovering from being sued
cleaning coal plants in New York,
and fighting for a remodeled gas
plant in Southern California. Aside from scrubbing filthy
the company is also obviously heavily involved trying to double-up
STNP: Wonder of wonders, Global Warming salve and salvation? Not likely.
Of the stock dump, I found two things of interest. One: As
expected, NRG shares are down more than $3 at the $40 level today. The
other was the explanatory note in the
Chronicle's brief on the first stock drop.
stock sale was conducted under a prearranged 10b5-1 trading plan which
allows a company insider to set up a program in advance for such
transactions and proceed with them even
if he or she comes into possession of material nonpublic information.
Now whether your year-end season be secular or semi-sacred, I'll leave
you with a
few more thoughts on nuclear power before the next round of hearings
and pony shows start
up in the New Year.
It's something to consider, the future. I recommend you enjoy it now.