Bridgeton News March 16, 2005 ILLEGAL PLANT WORKERS RAISE CONCERNS AT NUCLEAR FACILITIES By Terrence Dopp TRENTON -- The discovery of three illegal aliens working at a Florida nuclear facility points out problems with worker security at plants such as the Artificial Island complex in Salem County, one New Jersey activist said Tuesday. The workers falsified Social Security numbers to obtain work with a contractor doing business inside the Crystal River facility, according to published reports. "There appears to be a weakness within the system for background checks done on employees," said Norm Cohen of the UNPLUG Salem campaign, a frequent critic of the Garden State's two facilities. "You can't be 100 percent safe but you can do everything possible." Security at the Salem County installation has become a priority for residents in the area following the Sept. 11 attacks. Because the plants are subject to federal oversight, the same rules in effect in Florida govern plants in New Jersey, such as the PSEG Nuclear, Inc., facility in Lower Alloways Creek. That site hosts the Salem I, Salem II and Hope Creek reactors. Revelations of the undocumented workers came to light after three were found to file the false documents with a contractor, who then told plant regulators he performed all necessary background checks. All three men used driver's licenses to enter the facility after passing the phony Social Security numbers to Texas-based Brock Specialty Services, which supplies maintenance workers, according to published reports. "In general there has been a reasonable level (of security progress) but there are still weaknesses that could be addressed," Cohen said. "All workers should be vetted at some level, whether they are contractors or employees." Neil Sheehan, a spokesman for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, said none of the illegal immigrants obtained access to sensitive areas and were all supervised. The aliens performed painting and other maintenance jobs. "We regard this matter very seriously. We've notified all of our plants of the situation and we're always looking for ways to improve procedures," he said. "Our regulations are that contractors bring workers in do background checks. They are ultimately responsible" for looking into workers' pasts. PSEG spokesman Skip Sindoni said the company routinely uses contract workers during scheduled outage periods but said the company does not employ any undocumented workers in sensitive positions. He said backgrounds and credit are checked for all workers accessing sensitive areas, along with confirming the information on driver's licenses and Social Security cards. "We have a high assurance nobody like that would gain access to any secure areas unescorted," Sindoni said. "That's what is required." Under one piece of legislation pending in Trenton all workers in potential terrorism targets such as chemical depots and refineries would need to undergo stricter background checks. That measure is bottled up in the Senate. It was unclear whether NRC guidelines would supplant any state laws. "There is a great glitch in the system. It's very scary and we're going to try and get the laws jockeyed up so these things don't happen," said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-3, of Paulsboro, sponsor of the legislation and a member of the Assembly Homeland Security Committee. "It's frightening." Copyright 2005 NJ.com.