Bridgeton News
March 16, 2005


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