The operator of the San Onofre nuclear power plant said it has found evidence of marijuana use by workers 20 times in recent weeks, and announced it will begin random drug tests.
The testing plan announced Friday by the Rosemead-based Southern California Edison Co. closely matches one under consideration by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for imposition on the industry nationwide.
At San Onofre, the first plant in the nation where a reactor operator was suspended by the NRC because of a positive drug test, trained dogs found drug residue in four spots, Edison said in a news release. The utility said follow-up sweeps found drugs or residue in 16 more spots around the plant, which is on the coast north of San Diego.
The searches were begun after the remains of marijuana cigarettes turned up in little-used rooms in reactor buildings where security clearance is required to enter, said NRC spokesman Greg Cook in the agency’s Walnut Creek office. Edison found marijuana in varying quantities at several spots, he said, but was unable to provide details.
Actual Users Unknown
There is no way to tell if anyone who actually runs the reactors was high on drugs, he said.
“They couldn’t identify who brought it on site,” Cook said. “There’s a heck of a lot of employees who work out there, and a lot of contractor personnel.”
Edison, which has had pre-employment testing since 1984 and is able to test for cause, said that on Nov. 7 it will begin random, unannounced drug tests of most workers at San Onofre. After one positive test, an employee will be offered a choice of dismissal or counseling. After a second positive test the worker will be fired.
Members of one of the plant’s unions, the Utility Workers Union of America, will be exempt because a union challenge to an earlier testing proposal remains in the courts.