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Nuclear plant workers cite lack of precautions around virus

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Workers at Connecticut’s only nuclear power plant worry that managers are not taking enough precautions against the coronavirus after 750 temporary employees were brought in to help refuel one of the two active reactors.

Ten employees at the Millstone Power Station in Waterford have tested positive for the virus, and the arrival of the temporary workers alarms some of the permanent employees, The Day newspaper reported Sunday.

“Speaking specifically for the guard force, there’s a lot of frustration, there’s a lot of concern, and I would say there’s anger,” said Millstone security officer Jim Foley.

Foley, vice president of the local chapter of the United Government Security Officers of America, said security personnel have had to fight for personal protective equipment and for partitions at access points to separate staff from security.

Foley also has filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration saying Millstone staff are using ineffective cleaning materials and citing a lack of cleaning and sanitizing. Cleaning activity was not scheduled during three weekends in April, he said.

Officials at Millstone, owned by Dominion Energy, have not heard internal criticism about the plant’s virus precautions, Millstone spokesman Kenneth Holt said.

“We’ve actually gotten a lot of compliments from employees on the steps we’ve taken,” he said. “We’ve stepped up communications with employees to let them know what’s going on.”

Millstone recently increased cleaning staff on the weekends, Holt said, and there is regular disinfecting at the plant.

Responding to the complaint about ineffective cleaning materials, Holt said staff members early in the pandemic went to a Home Depot and got a bottle of disinfectant that wasn’t approved by the federal government as effective against the coronavirus. An approved disinfectant was brought in the next day, he said.

The deaths of nearly 2,500 Connecticut residents have been linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. More than 29,000 state residents have tested positive. As of Sunday, hospitalizations had declined for 11 consecutive days, to over 1,480.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.