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Associated Press: Hanford Contractor Reaches $1.1M Settlement in Whistleblower Suit Involving Training Program
A Hanford Contractor hired by the federal government to train workers involved in radiation clean-up work at the nuclear site has agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by the Justice Department. As part of the settlement, a whistleblower that filed a lawsuit under the False Claims Act in 2011 will receive $200,000. The suit alleged that the contractor, Fluor, used federal government money from the Department of Energy to lobby for additional government customers at another facility.
CBS5 Phoenix: Report – Arizona Lawmakers Bought by Corporate Interests
The nonprofit organization Common Cause has accused almost all of the Republicans in the Arizona state legislature of involvement in backroom partnerships with big corporations. The accusation was released in a report that alleges politicians took trips, stayed at luxury hotels and enjoyed other perks totaling up to $200,000, all on the dime of large companies hoping to pass legislation. The primary target of the report is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a nonprofit that has allegedly taken donations – all completely legal – from corporations and turned them into ‘scholarships’ for politicians.
Burton Mail: Ex-worker Who Blew the Whistle on ‘Corner-Cutting’ Firm Speaks Out
Evidence provided by a whistleblower has led to the prosecution of a British company that generally exhibited no regard for the safety of its workers. The company, which works on renovation and renewal projects, knowingly sent workers into asbestos-ridden sites, often without investigating or explaining the danger. This is not the first guilty charge related to health and safety standards in the company’s history. In 2005, the company was fined £8,000, a small sum compared to the £80,000 fined this year.
Arab American News: National Security Agency Whistleblower – How Much Freedom Must We Sacrifice for Security
In March, GAP client Tom Drake spoke at an event for the Muslim Legal Fund of America, along with FBI whistleblower and 2002 Time Magazine Person of the Year Colleen Rowley. The event focused on the ongoing threat of American civil liberties being jeopardized in the name of national security. Both whistleblowers spoke of significant shifts in the culture of America’s security agencies post 9/11 – a major concern of Muslim Americans facing discrimination and injustice today.
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The Government Accountability Project has a long, storied history of working with whistleblowers within the nuclear industry to bring public awareness to the most serious of safety threats.
With that in mind, GAP is partnering with other public interest organizations to raise awareness about an important new film. Countdown to Zero is a documentary about the escalating global nuclear arms crisis, making clear that the nuclear threat is very real – and not a bygone issue that died with the Cold War.
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Over the weekend, an anonymous whistleblower told a member of the Vermont Public Oversight Panel that a recent leak of radioactive chemicals from a nuclear power plant in that state is not the first it has experienced. The plant is currently trying to locate the source of the leak, while the whistleblower reported that leaks have occurred previously, and that the power plant attempted to fix them without shutting down or reporting the problem.
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President Obama announced an $8.33 billion federal loan for construction of a nuclear reactor in Georgia yesterday. Energy Secretary Steven Chu later elaborated that the Georgia project is the first of "at least a half-dozen, probably more, loans." While the backing of nuclear plant construction is an attempt to create bipartisan support for clean energy, the announcement has drawn criticism from both fiscal conservatives and environmental activists. Both cite the nuclear industry's history of hundreds of billions in budget overruns, and the cost of maintaining abandoned plants. Even the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warned that the risk of default on new nuclear plants could be as high as 50 percent. Chu responded to the CBO concerns that he expects the risk of default to be "far less than that," without providing a figure.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, a non-profit science advocacy group, said that the new construction would "shift unacceptable risks from the nuclear industry to U.S. taxpayers" and called the federal loan program "a prime example of pork-barrel politics on behalf of special interests."
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President Obama and his administration are trying to win over Republicans and moderate Democrats on climate and energy legislation
by signaling his support for nuclear energy plant production. However, the support for nuclear reactors has angered many liberals and environmentalists, who do not believe nuclear energy, in its current form, is safe.
One concern this raises at GAP is the potential for a resurrection for the Bush administration's proposal and support of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP. In 2006, the Bush administration Department of Energy put forth a proposal for a GNEP, and international plan that sought to increase and promote the use of nuclear power in both the U.S. and abroad by offering foreign countries to opportunity to import their nuclear waste into the United States, at which point this “spent fuel” would be reprocessed further for American power uses.
With a long history of monitoring nuclear power and waste sites, and knowing the terrible turmoil that undeniably occurs with safety issues and nuclear waste, GAP teamed up with other groups to take a stand against this badly thought-out plan. In conjunction with other groups, GAP released two pivotal reports on the extensive problems with GNEP. Each report, Risky Appropriations: Gambling US Energy Policy on the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership and Radioactive Wastes and the Global Energy Nuclear Partnership point out the numerous, insurmountable flaws dealing with each program. These included:
- The lack of any economic analysis of the costs and benefits of the GNEP plan.
- None of the proposed GNEP technologies and processes existed in commercially viable applications. Few technologies that GNEP required had ever been shown to be viable in any large engineering-scale demonstration projects.
- The proposed schedule for GNEP was not feasible – the technologies that would be required to implement GNEP successfully would take decades to develop if, in fact, they can be made technically and commercially viable at all.
- GNEP would be an unreasonably expensive and slow option for addressing global climate change.
- GNEP would lock the United States into decisions to deploy certain nuclear technologies and processes much before research and development phases are completed, demonstration projects are tested, and technologies are shown to be feasible.
- GNEP will likely worsen the radioactive waste disposal problem and would make the United States the dumping ground for nuclear waste from the other participating nations.
- In April 2009, the Department of Energy, amidst much resistance from the public-interest and environmental community, announced the cancellation of any domestic part of the GNEP plan.
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By Annette Cary
Hanford Challenge of Seattle is organizing a Hanford summit, saying that polarization between the east and west sides of the state has prevented discussion of important Hanford issues.
Western Washington and Portland are "concerned about Hanford's environmental impact past, present and future," the advocacy group says on its website.
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By Jay Reeves
A painter who was fired after complaining about a potential safety threat at a nuclear power plant in north Alabama won his whistleblower lawsuit against a Tennessee Valley Authority contractor in a decision made public Monday.
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The following op-ed was written by GAP Nuclear Oversight Director Tom Carpenter.
Late last month, the U.S. Department of Energy, along with the EPA and Washington state, hosted the annual "State of the Site" meeting on Hanford, in Seattle.
To those of us who are frequent attendees at such events, this one bore a depressing similarity to many of the past meetings called for a similar purpose -- to review the state of the Hanford nuclear site's efforts to clean up the largest and most expensive toxic mess in the United States.
Hanford opened in 1942 to produce, on an industrial scale, the plutonium used in the first nuclear explosion in the Nevada desert in 1945 -- followed shortly by the use of the plutonium bomb on Nagasaki, Japan.
More than 40 years later, Hanford had opened and closed nine nuclear production reactors, five plutonium reprocessing facilities and numerous laboratory and support facilities, all in support of the Cold War mission to create America's nuclear arsenal.
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Written by GAP Nuclear Oversight Director Tom Carpenter and Institute for Policy Studies senior scholar Robert Alvarez. Note: A version of this op-ed also appeared in the Keene Sentinel (N.H.).
President George W. Bush and his energy secretary, Samuel Bodman, have recently intensified their lobbying to revive “nuclear recycling” through a program they call the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, or GNEP.
This is hardly a new idea. In 1996, the National Academy of Sciences reported on the feasibility of recycling nuclear fuel. It was an intriguing idea because of its promise to reduce the amount of waste that had to be buried, where it could conceivably seep into drinking water at some point in its multimillion-year-long half-lives. But the Academy's conclusion was unequivocal–- the idea was supremely impractical. It would cost up to $500 billion in 1996 dollars and take 150 years to accomplish the transmutation of dangerous long-lived radioactive toxins.
Now the Bush administration is actively promoting GNEP as a sweeping panacea –- to supply virtually limitless energy to emerging economies, to "reduce the number of required...waste depositories to one for the remainder of this century" and to "enhance energy security, while promoting non-proliferation." The National Academy of Sciences’ findings have been swept aside, even though the idea is as costly and technologically unfeasible as it was in the 1990s.
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by GAP Nuclear Oversight Investigator Lea Mitchell
During World War II, Washington state aided the national interest by using Hanford to manufacture plutonium for the world's first atomic bombs. Although that era may be a thing of the past, the byproducts of it are not.
Hanford is now the most contaminated place in the Western hemisphere and the largest environmental remediation project in history. Gov. Chris Gregoire led the charge to hold the federal government accountable for promises made to our state, our representatives fight year after year for sufficient cleanup funds and Washington voters have supported cleanup efforts. It is time now to also turn up the heat on another key part of the cleanup -- providing medical assessment and compensation to Hanford workers who get ill or injured on the job.
A recent report issued by the Government Accountability Project exposes the Department of Energy's systemic interference with workers' compensation claims. The findings assert that DOE's program delays, denies and compromises workers' medical care. In addition, it challenges the DOE and state officials to ensure that the federal government does not create another generation of workers who are denied access to adequate medical care and compensation.