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Arrests Call Into Question Nuclear Plant Employee Training



    Nuclear Plant Employees Accused of Violent Crimes

    Dresden Nuclear Plant employees' behavior calls into question training at the Illinois facility. NBC 5 Investigates. (Published Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013)

    Two more Dresden Nuclear Power Plant employees have been arrested in the past month, further calling into question the security screening that all nuclear power plant employees must undergo on a regular basis.

    NBC 5 Investigates has learned that Nery Fajardo, 40, and Black Speckman, 24, were in training to become licensed reactor operators at the Dresden plant, located in Morris, Ill., just southwest of Chicago.

    But the two were arrested in September at an offsite party. Speckman is accused of tackling an officer, and Fajardo is charged with throwing a beer can at another officer and resisting arrest.

    Nuclear safety experts say it's further proof that there's a breakdown in how employees are screened and trained at Dresden.

    David Lochbaum, one of the nation's leading independent experts on the subject, says "controls are not as tight as they should be."

    The Dresden plant is one of six Illinois nuclear power plants operated by Exelon. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has ordered Exelon to retrain all workers in those plants on proper security procedures, specifically on how to recognize and report suspicious behavior among employees.

    It's the direct result of the activities of Michael Buhrman and Landon Brittain, two former high-ranking Dresden employees who were senior nuclear operators at the plant.

    Brittain is awaiting trial in DuPage County Jail, and Buhrman was just returned to the U.S. by federal marshals after being arrested in Venezuela.

    Both men fled to the South American country after a wild diversion from their day jobs at Dresden. The NRC confirms Burhman recruited Brittain at the plant and tried to recruit others to help him in a carjacking and bank robbery based on his fascination with the movie "The Town." Then, the men vanished.

    Lucas Hixon, the editor of the nuclear watchdog web site, says Burhrman and Brittain "are supposed to be licensed from top to bottom and are supposed to be no problem personnel."

    Hixon investigated the case, and through Venezuelan police sources, claims the two men ended up living a life of crime, residing in a luxury high rise building in Caracas and hosting sex parties.

    "It takes all of our current notions of safety and kind of tosses them on their head," Hixon said.

    In the past 24 hours, the NRC has issued a personal letter to Burhmain and Brittain formally prohibiting involvement in any future license nuclear activities to protect the public health and safety.

    Burhman was already tried, convicted and sentenced in absentia and Brittain is a week away from his next court date.

    The two most recently-arrested Dresden employees are awaiting trial.

    Exelon officials would not comment on the four men but did say the company would comply with the NRC order to retrain its staff.