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Facing Persecution for Righteousness

George Galatis was an engineer at Millstone Nuclear Power Station in Waterford, Connecticut, when he discovered something was wrong. Spent fuel-rod pools threatened to release radioactivity throughout the plant. The pools were not designed to serve as nuclear dumps. Federal guidelines required the Millstone plant to move only one-third of the rods into the pools, but Galatis found all of the hot fuel had been dumped into them. On other occasions, alarms would sound as the fuel was unloaded just 65 hours after a shutdown, far sooner than the mandated period of 250 hours. Supervisors winked at the routine violations, knowing they were saving millions in shortcuts.

Fearing the violations could threaten thousands of lives, Galatis told his colleague George Betancourt they should contact the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Betancourt agreed but was concerned for his colleague's future. "You do that," he said, "and you're dog meat."

When Galatis urged plant managers to stop the hazardous practices, they refused. Since many of his supervisors were churchgoers, he was baffled.

"This was not splitting hairs," Galatis says. "These were not technical issues. These were moral issues." Galatis warned his supervisors what could happen: eventual shutdown, decommissioning of the plants, and criminal investigations.

But after two years, nothing had changed—except the workplace atmosphere in which Galatis found himself. When he sat down in the cafeteria, coworkers left. When he entered a meeting, the room fell silent. Coworkers spread rumors that he was an alcoholic, and his performance evaluation suffered.

Galatis began an intense search for God's guidance. He awoke at 4 a.m. to pray and read Scripture. During lunch breaks, he drove to a secluded place to pray and search the Bible. It was during one of these prayer times that Galatis believed God whispered to him, "Will you die for me?"

Though he feared for his safety, Galatis realized there were many ways of dying: his livelihood, his reputation, and his family were at stake. Previous whistleblowers' families had brooked intense emotional strain. Northeast Utilities, owner of the nuclear plants, would likely hire one of the nation's top law firms to fight him. How many men in their mid 40s can lose high-paying jobs and start a second career?

After months of prayer and study, he concluded that no matter how much he was badgered, God would not allow him to be devastated. He decided to contact the NRC. They offered him no refuge.

When Galatis further petitioned the NRC to suspend Millstone's license, his cause became public and the pressure on him increased. Coworkers confronted him in the hallways and in his office. Some called him a fool; others said he was a troublemaker. He was subtly intimidated and harassed for months, and coworkers often told him, "Shut up and keep your job."

After four years of battling Millstone and co-worker pressure, Galatis finally obtained a severance agreement and left. The NRC never suspended Millstone's license, but three reactors were shut down for repairs at a cost of over $1 billion. A criminal investigation was launched. Millstone reactor 1 will never reopen. The Millstone 2 and 3 plants did not reopen until years later.

Galatis is now 47 and attends Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, with hopes of becoming a pastor.

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