Former Minnesota nuclear power plant employee outed as diploma-buying fraudster

Former Minnesota nuclear power plant employee outed as diploma-buying fraudster

Happily for us--but less so for our cheese-loving neighbors to the east--the man who reportedly bought bogus degrees in nuclear engineering and accounting has found a new job. At a Wisconsin nuclear power plant. In the control room.

Before we go any further, let us back up for a moment. In 2005, a federal grand jury in Washington state indicted eight people on charges of running a diploma mill and issuing thousands of fake degrees from colleges and universities both real and make-believe. All eight were eventually convicted, and last month the ringleader of the operation was sentenced to three years in prison.

Which left one big question unanswered: Who were their customers?

Frustratingly, the government refused to say. But yesterday, the Spokane Spokesman-Review published the complete list of names with an accompanying article highlighting some of the biggest eyebrow-raisers.

Included among the nearly 10,000 fake diploma buyers are members of the National Security Agency, the CIA, and even NASA. Perhaps the most interesting name on the list, however, is that of Duwayne Huss. In the article, Huss is described as:

an employee of Nuclear Management Co., operator of two nuclear plants in Minnesota, [who] bought degrees in nuclear engineering and accounting.

"I can't give you information about our employees," company spokeswoman Mary [Sandok] said Monday when asked if Huss was still employed.

Nuclear Management Co. is contracted by Xcel Energy to run its two nuclear power plants, Monticello and Prairie Island. This morning, Xcel spokesman Tom Hoen told City Pages that Huss hasn't worked for Nuclear Management Co. for more than three years--since right around the time the feds were sinking their teeth into the diploma mill.

Hoen wouldn't say what Huss's job was at Nuclear Management Co., nor would he say whether Huss quit or was fired. All of which strikes us as pretty dumb. If he was a pencil pusher who was fired when his fraud was uncovered, then good. If he was in charge of making sure the place didn't melt down and left of his own volition, well, that's embarrassing and scary and, if true, will in all likelihood come to light in due time.

But there's more:

After parting ways with Nuclear Management Co., Huss secured employment at the Kewaunee Power Station in eastern Wisconsin. A call to the nuclear plant confirms that Huss is currently employed in its control room, although the receptionist declined to say in what capacity.

The nuclear power plant is owned by Dominion, which describes itself on its website as "one of the nation's largest producers of energy."

We've got calls out to the big cheeses of the company to ask if they're aware that a control room worker at one of their nuclear plants seems to have a make-believe degree in nuclear engineering. We'll let you know what they say when we hear back.

Also, messages left for Huss at what appears to be his home phone number were not returned.

UPDATE: Xcel has released more information about Huss's stint at Nuclear Management Co. Here's the email that Tom Hoen, Xcel's spokesman, just sent our way:

"Mr. Huss has not worked for Nuclear Management Co for three years. He never worked for Xcel Energy, nor did he ever have access to or work at Xcel Energy's Prairie Island or Monticello nuclear plants."

FURTHER UPDATE: Dominion Energy responds.

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