- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 30, 2014

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) - Hundreds of nuclear workers at a Navy shipyard have been placed on restrictive duty after investigators discovered they were given credit for attending continuing training they didn’t actually attend, an official said Tuesday.

Norfolk Naval Shipyard spokesman Jeff Cunningham said about 300 workers, or about 6 percent of the shipyard’s nuclear workforce, have had their duties restricted until it can be verified they’ve completed the training. The shipyard in Portsmouth has also temporarily reassigned eight employees responsible for administering the continuing training program until the investigation is complete.

Cunningham said it’s unclear whether workers were simply given credit in error, but they’re all required to go through the training to perform their jobs.

“These continuing training program discrepancies in no way represent a failure on the part of workers to demonstrate qualification and competence in performing their duties,” Cunningham said in a written statement.

Cunningham says the shipyard was notified of the problem about two weeks ago through an anonymous letter forwarded by U.S. Rep. Randy Forbes, a Republican from Chesapeake.

All of the affected workers have already passed their qualifications, but Cunningham said they’re also required to attend the continuing training between requalification events.

The move by the Navy comes at a time the shipyard had already suspended most nuclear work at the shipyard earlier in September after shipyard workers improperly handled equipment that had been used to work on nuclear reactors. The move affected work aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and the submarines USS Maryland and USS Albany.

Cunningham said the shipyard had slowly starting to resume some nuclear work, but the productivity has now been hampered by the loss of the hundreds of employees who have been placed on restrictive duty.

After the shipyard learned about the potential continuing training problem, leaders from three other Navy shipyard and Naval Sea Systems Command were brought in to provide an independent review.

“These independent reviews have verified that the nuclear worker qualification program does not exhibit the same kinds of problems found in the continuing training program,” Cunningham said.

“All internal and external reviews of Norfolk Naval Shipyard have not revealed any problems impacting the safety of workers, the public, or the environment.”

Cunningham said it wasn’t immediately clear when the investigation would be complete.


Brock Vergakis can be reached at www.twitter.com/BrockVergakis

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