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Commission says TVA exec retaliated over safety concerns

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission has concluded that a Tennessee Valley Authority executive retaliated against a safety whistleblower.

Vice President Joseph Shea "played a significant role" in the 2018 firing of nuclear engineer Beth Wetzel after she repeatedly raised safety concerns about TVA's nuclear power program, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported, citing a statement from the agency. The panel concluded Shea's actions were intentional and banned him from working in any activities that require licensing by the commission for five years.

TVA spokesman Jim Hopson said the utility disagrees with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but has not decided whether to appeal.

"We take this issue very seriously and respect the NRC's decision," Hopson said in a statement. "TVA previously investigated these events, which occurred several years ago, and did not reach the same conclusion as the NRC. We are continuing to evaluate the NRC's notice and are evaluating our next steps."

Shea remains an executive at TVA, but no longer oversees nuclear regulatory affairs.

The Tennessee Valley Authority is the nation's largest public utility and serves most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Mississippi and Kentucky as well as small sections of Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

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