At 1:09 one afternoon last year, 90 metal rods slid into the cores of the two nuclear reactors at Turkey Point, part of an automatic shutdown that had been triggered by a utility worker's blunder moments earlier at a substation miles away. A million customers lost power.
Florida Power & Light executives ordered that the reactors be back online within 12 hours, according to court documents. The plant's top nuclear operator, David Hoffman, said that would be dangerous. When FPL executives disagreed with him, he walked out at 8 p.m., refusing to participate in actions he felt were unsafe.
At 11:49 that night, Feb. 26, 2008, he submitted a heated resignation letter, blasting FPL for constantly putting cost savings ahead of safety and creating a horrible morale problem. ''People are not valued and are treated like equipment and numbers,'' Hoffman wrote.
Hoffman's charge offers a rare insight into safety complaints made by nuclear workers, who are often forbidden by contract from saying anything negative about their bosses. The information came to light because FPL is suing him for the return of a bonus, and he's charging in a countersuit that the utility is improperly trying to silence his complaints about safety.