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CEO DATELINE – Nuclear Energy Institute sued by former member

Feb. 5, 2018
By Walt Williams

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The Nuclear Energy Institute is being sued by a former member for allegedly denying access to a database used to screen workers at nuclear power plants.

NextEra Energy announced in January that it was leaving the $54 million-revenue NEI, although it did not spell out why at the time. Now NextEra is suing the association for allegedly locking the company out of the Personal Access Data System, which is an NEI-administered database developed in the mid-1990s to screen nuclear power plant employees to determine whether they constitute a security risk.

“NEI’s actions were taken for no purpose other than to retaliate against the NextEra companies because of their withdrawal as NEI members,” NextEra said in a lawsuit filed Feb. 2 in U.S. District Court for Southern Florida.

In the lawsuit, NextEra said it left NEI largely because of policy disagreements.  The company operates five nuclear power plants but also has significant investments in solar and wind power. NextEra accused NEI of painting a misleading picture of nuclear power’s necessity in maintaining a stable electric grid—a picture that came at the expense of other forms of power generation. The company specifically pointed to NEI’s support for U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry’s failed plan to subsidize the coal and nuclear industries as a reason why it left.

NEI members have access to PADS but the database is also available to nonmembers for a fee. NextEra said it would be allowed to maintain access to PADS through March only if it agreed to pay NEI  $860,000, much of which were allegedly membership fees not related to the database.

“In other words, NEI attempted to extract a sizable monetary payment as a condition for continued access to PADS,” the company said in the lawsuit.

NextEra is seeking unspecified monetary damages. NEI had not responded to the lawsuit as of Monday morning.