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Whistleblower sues over firing by Browns Ferry contractor

ATHENS (AP) — A former construction foreman at Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant filed a whistleblower lawsuit Friday, claiming he was fired in 2004 by a Tennessee Valley Authority contractor for reporting serious safety violations at the plant.

Attorneys for James Speegle filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Huntsville against the contractor, Massachusetts-based Stone & Webster Construction, seeking a jury trial.

Speegle alleges in the suit that he complained to the company's management and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission about serious safety problems with the protective coatings used in the plant's cooling system.

He was fired May 22, 2004 — two days after he complained to the NRC and the company, the suit says.

According to the suit, TVA removed Stone & Webster from the coatings project after Speegle was fired and hired another contractor to redo the work that led to the complaint.

The NRC later cited Stone & Webster for improper coatings work at Browns Ferry, according to the suit.

NRC spokesman Ken Clark did not immediately respond to a message for comment. Stone & Webster spokesman Sean Clancy said the company doesn't comment on litigation.

The suit follows Speegle's whistleblower complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Labor after his firing.

In a statement, Speegle's attorney, David J. Marshall of Washington, D.C., said people who live near the nuclear plant "rely on the workers there to blow the whistle on safety violations, and I'm confident that they want to see James Speegle vindicated for doing the right thing."

At the time of the firing, Stone & Webster was under pressure to complete a $1.8 billion overhaul of the Unit 1 reactor at Browns Ferry, according to Marshall.

Unit 1, which had been shut down in 1985 due to safety concerns, was restarted in May after being off line for 22 years.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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