Following last week’s news of serious doubts about safety and inspection standards at the construction of Finland’s ‘state of the art’ Olkiluoto 3 nuclear reactor, another scandal has emerged involving threats to potential whistleblowers on the site.
As reported by Finnish broadcasting company YLE, Reactor builders Areva and sub-contractor Bouygues have banned employees from speaking out about the ongoing construction. The rules about confidentiality that bind workers cover workers’ rights and safety issues. Bouygues employees have been specifically and repeatedly warned about report safety concerns about the reactor’s construction to Areva or inspectors from TVO, Finland’s electricity generator.
This all this makes us want to ask one big question: if everything is fine with the reactor’s construction, if there are no problems and no dangers, why threaten workers with disciplinary action for speaking out about it? Why the need for a cover up if nothing is wrong? Would an employee face losing their job if he or she were to go to the media and declare ‘everything is going well at Olkiluoto 3’? We’re sure that if Areva or Bouygues were asked if everything was well at the site, their answer would be ‘yes’ (they certainly protested vehemently against last week’s news). So why gag workers?
We can understand Areva wanting to protect its intellectual properties such as reactor designs but openness about safety issues and worker’s rights are fundamental to public confidence in any large building project. We have a right to know about any risks or dangers or if companies are exploiting their workers.
Bullying, threats and shabby attempts at cover-ups make the likes of Areva and sub-contractor Bouygues look paranoid, incompetent and contemptuous of the public interest. In case they’d forgotten, power stations are built to fulfil a public need. These companies serve the public good, not the other way around. If they can’t even build projects in a safe, honest and transparent manner then they should not be building at all..
Construction at Olkiluoto 3 must stop while safety concerns are thoroughly investigated by an independent group. Threats to workers jobs and livelihoods must stop. Whistleblowing should be positively encouraged. We need a culture of openness in which we have much more accountability, more competence, more public confidence and less danger.