Feds enter suit charging defective rebar, quality control lapses in nuclear waste facility

Sources: U.S. Department of Justice; CP staff

The Justice Department has intervened in a False Claims Act lawsuit, alleging Energy & Process Corp. (E&P) of Tucker, Ga., knowingly failed to perform required quality assurance procedures and supplied defective steel reinforcing bars in connection with a Department of Energy nuclear waste treatment facility contract.

“The Department is committed to ensuring that construction suppliers who are paid a premium to meet high safety standards actually supply the goods and perform the work for which they are paid,” says Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Mizer, head of the Justice Civil Division. “When contractors cut corners, they not only cheat American taxpayers, but they also can put public safety at risk, particularly when their misconduct affects a facility that houses and processes nuclear materials.”

The lawsuit alleges that although the DOE paid E&P a premium to supply rebar that met stringent regulatory standards for the Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication and Reactor Irradiation Services facility in the Department’s Savannah River site near Aiken, S.C., E&P failed to perform most of the necessary quality assurance measures, while falsely certifying that those requirements had been met. The lawsuit further alleges that one-third of the rebar supplied by E&P and used in the construction was found to be defective.

“To ensure that the nuclear facility would be safe, the government paid E&P a sizable premium for exhaustive quality control procedures,” notes U.S. Attorney John Horn of the Northern District of Georgia. “This lawsuit alleges that E&P intentionally failed to perform the quality control work, and then concealed its failing by providing false certifications to the government. In intervening in this lawsuit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office seeks to ensure that entities that defraud the government are identified and held responsible.”

The lawsuit was filed by Deborah Cook, a former employee of the prime contractor building the DOE facility, under the False Claims Act whistleblower provisions. Under the act, private citizens can bring suit on behalf of the government for false claims and share in any recovery. The act permits the government to intervene in such lawsuits, as it has done in this case. Defendants found liable under the act are subject to treble damages and penalties. Alleged wrongdoing at the Savannah River site was investigated by the Justice Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices of the Northern District of Georgia and the District of South Carolina, and DOE Office of Inspector General.