Los Angeles Times: Company Fires Scientist Who Warned of Hanford Waste Site Problems
A new report from the Energy Department’s Inspector General shows that Bechtel – the firm behind the minimum $12+ billion waste-treatment project at the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington state – has been obtaining important parts without subjecting the purchases to required quality assurance standards. This is an essential step to insure that Hanford's vitrification plant – which mixes glass with highly radioactive nuclear waste – will operate safely in the future. The Hanford cleanup project has long been shrouded in notorious scandal involving safety lapses, causing years of delay and billions of overspent dollars.
Hanford is the most contaminated environmental site in the country, and GAP has been involved in holding firms like Bechtel accountable for years. GAP spin-off Hanford Challenge does just that. The most recent Hanford controversy was a report from earlier this year that 177 underground storage tanks are leaking toxic waste. In 2006, GAP released documents from whistleblowers showing that Bechtel knowingly installed a defective major plant component in order to receive a $15 million bonus for hitting an installation deadline.
The recent report only comes as further vindication for Walt Tamosaitis, a featured speaker on GAP’s American Whistleblower Tour who warned repeatedly of design flaws in the Bechtel waste treatment facility at Hanford. Unfortunately, after 44 years of working for a Hanford contrator, San Francisco-based URS which oversees much of the facility production at the site, Tamosaitis lost his job on Wednesday. The action comes as a final blow of retaliation for a senior scientist that once directed a staff of 100 workers and has slowly been demoted for speaking out about safety concerns at the plant. With Tamosaitis gone and reports concerning the hazardous wrongdoing at the facility still pouring out, hope for real accountability within the nuclear industry is dwindling.
Key Quote: But Tom Carpenter, executive director of Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group that assisted a number of whistle-blowers at the federal complex, said the dismissal was "clearly another act of retribution against Walter Tamosaitis."
Tamosaitis was among several Hanford complex managers who raised concerns about the safety culture. The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent federal agency that oversees the nuclear weapons complex, raised its own concerns about similar issues and in 2011 backed up Tamosaitis' concerns. On Thursday, Tamosaitis, 66, said he was unsure what he would do next.
"I enjoyed working and trying to do something for the country," he said. "They killed my career. It sends a message to everybody else that they shouldn't raise issues. Forty-four years of service, a PhD, a recognized expert in nuclear engineering — none of that mattered."
PogoBlog: Open Government Closed Watchdogs Shut Out
This article comments on all of the federal outlets of government oversight that usually work to protect whistleblowers, but are currently inaccessible due to the government shutdown. Besides a skeleton crew working on limited disclosures at the Office of Special Counsel (the agency responsible for investigating whistleblower disclosures and protecting truth-tellers), the Merit Systems Protection Board, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, and Government Accountability Office are all sitting on cases looking into fraud, waste and abuse for the time being.
Washington Post: Whistleblower in Snyder Tree Case Moves on to a New Job, Wins Settlement with Park Service
The federal government has settled a whistleblower retaliation case stemming from the complaints of a C & O Canal park ranger who claimed to undergo years of retaliation for continuously revealing that the National Park Service (NPS) illegally allowed the owner of the Washington NFL franchise to cut down trees in a federally protected area. The terms of the settlement are not disclosed. The Department of Interior Inspector General found that NPS bypassed or disregarded all their usual administrative procedures and policies in favor of the football team’s owner.
The Hill: Ex-NSA Chief Jokes about Putting Edward Snowden on Kill List
At a cyber-security summit yesterday, former NSA and CIA head Michael Hayden joked along with House Intelligence Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Mi), about putting NSA surveillance whistleblower Edward Snowden on a kill list. According to the article, upon hearing that Snowden had been nominated for a European human rights award, Hayden commented "I must admit, in my darker moments over the past several months, I'd also thought of nominating Mr. Snowden, but it was for a different list" to which Rep. Rogers responded “I can help you with that.”
Jack Davis is Communications Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.