The Virginia Electric and Power Company denied yesterday allegations made repeatedly by two former employees at their nuclear sabotage trial earlier this week that the company's Surry atomic power plant is a health and safety hazard.
"I will say outright that all of the allegations that have been raised during the recent trial are untrue," Vepco station manager William L. Stewart told a press conference at the plant, located 130 miles south of Washington. His comments ended the company's silence about the charges.
Stewart accused the two former workers, who were convicted Tuesday night of damaging space fuel road assemblies at the plant and each sentenced to two-year prison terms, of putting Vepco and the Surry plant on "informal trial" with help from the news media.
But William E. Kuykendall, one of the former workers and a graduate of the Navy's nuclear reactor training program, said in a telephone interview he stood by his charges that plant management has falsified records, cheated on safety tests of equipment and ignored workers' complaints.
"We'd be more than happy to have all of our allegations disproved, " said Kuykendall. "But it would take a lot more than a statement by the plant manager to prove everything is all right."
Kuykendall and James A. Merrill Jr., both of whom worked as reactor operator trainees, were convicted Tuesday night of damaging spare fuel rod assemblies at the plant's fuel building. Each was sentenced to two years in prison.
The men contended throughout their trial they had acted to call attention to safety problems at the plant. Plant manager Stewart said yesterday neither man had brought complaints to him and added, "to the best of my knowledge, neither man reported any of their concerns by any means to any level of plant management" or to the 'nuclear Regulatory Commission.
"So here we have two trust employees who became so concerned over 'safety and security problems' and 'management attitude' that they decided on an act of destruction unprecedented in the nuclear power industry without offering their employer a chance to respond and without reporting to the watchdog agency (NRC)," said Stewart.
Kuykendall repeated yesterday his trial testimony that he and Merrill did complain to their superiors at the plant but were ignored or told not to pursue their complaints with higher officials.