delivered the opinion of the court:
Plaintiffs, William E. Wheeler and Judith A. Wheeler, appealed from the order of the circuit court of Macon County dismissing with prejudice counts III and VI of their six-count complaint against defendant, Caterpillar Tractor Company, and striking from counts I, II, IV and V the prayers for punitive or exemplary damages. The appellate court affirmed (123 Ill. App. 3d 539), and we allowed plaintiffs’ petition for leave to appeal (94 Ill. 2d R. 315).
The appellate court affirmed the striking of the prayers for punitive damages, holding that the circuit court had entered no such order with respect to counts IV and V, and that, by failing to argue the point on appeal, plaintiffs had waived any error with respect to counts I and II. This appeal involves only counts III and VI.
In count III it was alleged that plaintiff, William E. Wheeler, had been employed by defendant since December 1955; that in August 1979 he was employed in defendant’s X-ray department as a radiographer; that approximately eight months earlier he had been told by his supervisors that defendant was installing a Cobalt 60 unit that utilized live radioactive cobalt and that plaintiff would be expected to operate; and that plaintiff repeatedly requested that he not be required to operate the cobalt unit and that he be *505transferred out of the X-ray department for the reason that the cobalt unit was not properly operated and could cause serious and permanent injury. He alleged that cobalt 60 is a live source of radioactivity; that its safe handling requires more training than plaintiff was given; and that a Nuclear Regulatory Commission investigation disclosed a number of inadequacies and violations of regulations published in designated paragraphs of the Federal Register. Plaintiff also alleged that defendant refused to grant his request for transfer from the X-ray department and, in retaliation for his refusal to work with the cobalt unit, discharged him. He alleged, too, that the discharge was in contravention of the public policy of the State of Illinois and resulted from his employer’s violation of federally mandated safety codes.
In count VI, plaintiff, Judith A. Wheeler, made substantially the same allegations, and further alleged that she had been deprived of plaintiff’s services, society, companionship, and his conjugal relationship, and sought damages therefor.
In affirming the judgment, the appellate court, citing Palmateer v. International Harvester Co. (1981), 85 Ill. 2d 124, held that to state a cause of action for the tort of retaliatory discharge requires that it be alleged in the complaint that the employee was discharged in retaliation for his activities, and that the discharge was in contravention of a clearly mandated public policy. The appellate court concluded that plaintiff William Wheeler was not attempting to remedy any possible rule violations, nor could they have played any part in his discharge, and therefore the clearly mandated public policy required under Palmateer was not present.
Because the order was entered upon allowance of a motion to dismiss, all facts properly pleaded must be taken as true. (Fitzgerald v. Chicago Title & Trust Co. (1978), 72 Ill. 2d 179, 187.) In determining the sufficiency of the dis*506missed counts, we must apply the rule that no cause of action should be dismissed on the pleadings unless it clearly appears that no set of facts can be proved which will entitle plaintiff to recover. Fitzgerald v. Chicago Title & Trust Co. (1978), 72 Ill. 2d 179, 187; Fechtner v. Lake County Savings & Loan Association (1977), 66 Ill. 2d 128.
It is plaintiffs’ contention that the enactment of Federal legislation and the promulgation of regulations, violations of which are alleged in the complaint, enunciate a clearly mandated public policy to be uniformly enforced throughout the United States. They argue that the complaint alleged that Mr. Wheeler was discharged in retaliation for his refusal to work in the face of these violations and that the complaint stated a cause of action. It is defendant’s position that because the complaint alleged no communication to the appropriate authorities of plaintiffs’ claims of violation of the regulations, the controversy remained an internal matter between employer and employee and no public policy question was involved.
The control of radioactive materials was preempted by the enactment of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (42 U.S.C. sec. 2011 et seq. (1982); Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Development Com. (1983), 461 U.S. 190, 75 L. Ed. 2d 752, 103 S. Ct. 1713; Illinois v. Kerr-McGee Chemical Corp. (7th Cir. 1982), 677 F.2d 571), and the congressional findings (42 U.S.C. sec. 2012 (1982)) and declaration of policy (42 U.S.C. sec. 2011 (1982)) clearly enunciate a public policy which is national in scope.
Although not briefed or argued by the parties, we have, sua sponte, raised the question whether under the provisions of section 210 of the Energy Reorganization Act (42 U.S.C. sec. 5851 (1982)) the preemption is so extensive as to preclude the bringing of this action. Section 5851, in pertinent part, provides:
*507“(a) Discrimination against employee
No employer, including a Commission licensee, an applicant for a Commission license, or a contractor or a subcontractor of a Commission licensee or applicant, may discharge any employee or otherwise discriminate against any employee with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because the employee (or any person acting pursuant to a request of the employee)—
(1) commenced, caused to be commenced, or is about to commence or cause to be commenced a proceeding under this chapter or the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended [42 U.S.C. sec. 2011 et seg.], or a proceeding for the administration or enforcement of any requirement imposed under this chapter or the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended;
(2) testified or is about to testify in any such proceeding or;
(3) assisted or participated or is about to assist or participate in any manner in such a proceeding or in any other manner in such a proceeding or in any other action to carry out the purposes of this chapter or the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended [42 U.S.C. sec. 2011 et seg.].
(b) Complaint, filing and notification
(1) Any employee who believes that he has been discharged or otherwise discriminated against by any person in violation of subsection (a) of this section may, within thirty days after such violation occurs, file (or have any person file on his behalf) a complaint with the Secretary of Labor (hereinafter in this subsection referred to as the ‘Secretary’) alleging such discharge or discrimination. Upon receipt of such a complaint, the Secretary shall notify the person named in the complaint of the filing of the complaint and the Commission.
(2) (A) ***
(B) If, in response to a complaint filed under paragraph (1), the Secretary determines that a violation of subsection (a) of this section has occurred, *508the Secretary shall order the person who committed such violation to (i) take affirmative action to abate the violation, and (ii) reinstate the complainant to his former position together with the compensation (including back pay), terms, conditions, and privileges of his employment, and the Secretary may order such person to provide compensatory damages to the complainant. If an order is issued under this paragraph, the Secretary, at the request of the complainant shall assess against the person against whom the order is issued a sum equal to the aggregate amount of all costs and expenses (including attorneys’ and expert witness fees) reasonably incurred, as determined by the Secretary, by the complainant for, or in connection with, the bringing of the complaint upon which the order was issued.” 42 U.S.C. secs. 5851(a), (b) (1982).
Even in legislation in which Congress has not totally displaced State regulation in a specific area, State law is preempted to the extent that it actually conflicts with Federal law or if it stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the full purposes and objectives of Congress. (Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Development Com. (1983), 461 U.S. 190, 75 L. Ed. 2d 752, 103 S. Ct. 1713.) In Pacific Gas & Electric the Supreme Court held that a primary purpose of the Atomic Energy Act is the promotion of nuclear power and that a California statute conditioning, as a matter of economic policy, construction of additional nuclear power plants on findings of the State Energy Commission that adequate means of disposal exist for nuclear waste did not so frustrate the Atomic Energy Act’s purpose to develop the commercial use of nuclear power as to be preempted by the Act. In Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp. (1984), 464 U.S. 238, 78 L. Ed. 2d 443, 104 S. Ct. 615, the Supreme Court rejected the contention that an award for punitive *509damages in an action based on Oklahoma law conflicted with Congress’ express intent to preclude dual regulation of radiation hazards. The court concluded that it was not inconsistent to vest the Nuclear Regulatory Commission with exclusive regulatory authority over the safety aspects of nuclear development and at the same time permit the plaintiffs to recover for injuries caused by nuclear hazards, and that the award of punitive damages was not preempted by Federal law.
Under the provisions of section 5851 an employee may be reinstated in his employment and recover compensatory damages, but no provision is made for punitive damages. In Midgett v. Sackett-Chicago, Inc. (1984), 105 Ill. 2d 143, it was held that a wrongfully discharged employee whose employment was covered by a collective-bargaining agreement providing for grievance procedures was not required to exhaust those procedures prior to bringing an action for the tort of retaliatory discharge. The court reasoned that such an employee had a cause of action in tort independent of any contract remedy which may have been based on the collective-bargaining agreement. Citing Kelsay v. Motorola, Inc. (1978), 74 Ill. 2d 172, the court held that he was not limited to the remedies provided in the collective-bargaining agreement and could seek to recover punitive damages. We find the situation here analogous to Silkwood and conclude that it was not the congressional intent to preempt the field.
Although somewhat inartfully stated, the complaint alleged that plaintiff was discharged in retaliation for his refusal to work in the handling of cobalt 60 while the operations were being conducted in violation of regulations promulgated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and published in the Federal Register. We do not agree with the appellate court that the question whether the facts as alleged involved public policy, or a matter of private concern, depended upon whether a complaint was made to the *510regulatory authorities. The legislation and the regulations declared the public policy, and the existence of that public policy did not depend upon whether plaintiff had communicated a complaint to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or whether its investigation preceded or followed that complaint.
We note that the circuits are not in agreement on the question whether the provisions of section 5851 protect an employee from retaliation based on internal safety complaints or whether participation in a proceeding is required. In Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, Inc. v. Donovan (2d Cir. 1982), 673 F.2d 61, the court denied the petition for review of an order directing the reinstatement of an employee who had been discharged because he had made numerous complaints about safety at the nuclear power plant where he was employed. There is nothing in the opinion to indicate that he had participated in a proceeding for the enforcement of the Act. In Mackowiak v. University Nuclear Systems, Inc. (9th Cir. 1984), 735 F.2d 1159, the court sustained the Secretary of Labor’s conclusion that section 5851 protects employees from retaliation based on internal-safety and quality-control complaints. In Brown & Root, Inc. v. Donovan (5th Cir. 1984), 747 F.2d 1029, the court held that the statute does not protect the filing of purely internal quality-control reports, but is designed to protect “whistle blowers” who provide information to governmental entities. The Supreme Court has not addressed the question whether section 5851 applies to purely internal complaints.
Plaintiffs have alleged that William Wheeler was discharged in violation of a clearly mandated public policy. In Palmateer v. International Harvester Co. (1981), 85 Ill. 2d 124, it was held that a cause of action for retaliatory discharge existed because the plaintiff was discharged for informing a local law enforcement agency that a co-worker may have committed a criminal violation. In Palmateer the *511court said, “There is no public policy more important or more fundamental than the one favoring the effective protection of the lives and property of citizens.” (85 Ill. 2d 124, 132.) The protection of the lives and property of citizens from the hazards of radioactive material is as important and fundamental as protecting them from crimes of violence, and by the enactment of the legislation cited, Congress has effectively declared a clearly mandated public policy to that effect. We hold, therefore, that counts III and VI stated a cause of action for retaliatory discharge for refusing to work under conditions which contravened the clearly mandated public policy, and the circuit court erred in dismissing them.
The parties have limited their arguments to the sole question whether counts III and VI stated a cause of action for retaliatory discharge. They have not briefed or argued, and we do not decide, assuming that plaintiffs prevail in this cause, what elements of damage are recoverable, or whether any of the damages sought in count VI may be recovered as the result of the alleged wrongful discharge of William Wheeler. We decide only the narrow issue presented, and in holding that the counts- erroneously dismissed stated a cause of action for retaliatory discharge, we do not imply any opinion concerning the damages.
For the reasons stated, the judgments of the appellate and circuit courts are reversed and the cause is remanded to the circuit court of Macon County for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
Judgments reversed; cause remanded.
took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.