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Hanford Whistleblower Loses Job — Was It Retaliation?

Hanford whistleblower loses job
(Photo by Jeff T. Green/Getty Images)

This story is starting to gather some national attention. On Thursday, a 66-year-old senior scientist was let go from his job at Hanford less than two years after he voiced safety concerns over the VIT Plant.

Walter Tamosaitis was was escorted off the grounds of Hanford sub-contractor URS Corp. after 44 years with the company.

Back in 2010 and 2011, Tamosaitis  warned about what he said were fundamental design flaws in the plan, and according to the L.A. Times, was then assigned a basement room office without furniture or a telephone. According to the Times on Thursday:

The concerns that Tamosaitis raised two years ago about the design of the waste treatment plant, a $12.3-billion industrial complex that would turn highly radioactive sludge into glass, were validated by federal investigators.”

A New York Times report from April noted the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said in a report:

(The plant) “has design problems that could lead to chemical explosions, inadvertent nuclear reactions and mechanical breakdowns.”

One of the potential issues being grappled with is that the much of the waste stored in the tanks at Hanford contains elements that when combined, or bombarded, with high levels of radiation, can give off potentially volatile hydrogen gas. The plant under construction will mix molten glass with the waste to create non-leaking solids that would also be very difficult to break down. It would then be stored in the Yucca Mountain repository.

As part of these design concerns, there were also questions about whether breakdowns or malfunctions inside the plant’s core could be fixed. Some experts say once the plant becomes operational, the core or inner workings will be so “hot” or contaminated they won’t be able to be accessed.

URS refused to discuss the matter specifically, but did say it had reduced employment levels due to budgetary constraints. Tom Carpenter heads up Hanford Challenge, a watchdog group that has assisted whistleblowers in the past, and says it was clearly another act of “retribution against Walter Tamosaitis.”

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