Corner cutting of nuclear proportions as duo admit to falsifying safety tests 29 times

No word on motivation but pair face up to 5 years in the cooler

Two men this week confessed to deliberately bypassing testing protocols that are essential to keeping nuclear power plants safe. This happened not once, not twice, but 29 times.

Miguel Marcial Amaro, 56, from Delaware, and Martin Ramos, 52, from Pennsylvania, both pleaded guilty to a single count of making and using a materially false document, and aiding and abetting the same, for their respective roles in creating false calibration certs.

And it wasn't just one nuclear plant where Marcial and Ramos were cutting corners. According to the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division, the duo faked certs that would show acoustic emissions (AE) testing had been done by calibrated instruments in several plants over a period that stretched for over a decade.

AE testing is important as it's how engineers can check the structural integrity of components without shaking, moving, or otherwise impacting their serviceability. The pair were responsible for ascertaining their employer's AE testing kit was compliant, with Marcial ensuring the equipment was calibrated annually, and Ramos working under Marcial as an engineer.

According to prosecutors, between 2010 and 2021, instead of properly calibrating the tools, Marcial and Ramos each created numerous false calibration certificates for AE testing equipment. "The false certificates were then sent to the owners of the nuclear plants as part of final testing reports required by NRC regulations on 29 occasions."

The Justice Department said in a felony notice filed on September 25 that the AE testing equipment was used to determine, "among other things, the structural integrity of heavy-lifting components, such as cranes and rigging, that handled critical components of a nuclear reactor, including nuclear fuel."

AE testing works by mounting small sensors onto a component. The component emits stress waves when you apply an external stimulus, such as high pressure, loads, or temperatures. The sensors detect these waves as they are emitted, convert them into electrical signals, and then relay these to a computer for processing. The notice adds that the process assesses the structural integrity of components, including whether there was any "infirmity, weakness, or damage."

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC) Office of Investigation conducted the inquiry.

"Today, we hold defendants accountable for deliberately attempting to bypass testing protocols that are essential to keeping nuclear power plants safe," said assistant attorney general Todd Kim of the Justice Department's Environment and Natural Resources Division. "We will continue to use all available enforcement authorities to support NRC's efforts to ensure that nuclear energy is safely created."

The pair are scheduled to be sentenced on January 25 next year, with a federal district court judge determining the length, which is max five years. The original indictment is not public and it is not known what the men's motivation for their actions could be.

The cases are 2:23-cr-00423-KSM, United States v. Miguel Marcial Amaro, and 2:23-cr-00424-KSM United States v. Martin Ramos ®

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