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Federal Nuclear Watchdog Says Hanford Safety Culture Still An Issue

RICHLAND, Wash. – A report last week says the safety culture at Hanford's waste treatment plant is largely OK. But now, a federal nuclear facilities watchdog says he sees it differently.

Hanford's waste treatment plant contractor Bechtel commissioned the report. It was carried out by a small cadre of nuclear experts. It found that Hanford's waste treatment plant had, overall, a good safety culture.

That's been the subject of much debate ever since a high-level whistleblower came forward criticizing the $12 billion project.

Dr. Peter Winokur, head of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board says he agrees with much of what Bechtel's new report says, but he says, "To be frank what is surprising to me about it is that, much of what I read in the report, really to me indicates that there is a flawed safety culture. So the conclusions surprise me."

Winokur says the report may be helpful to Department of Energy officials, but he still believes the project is in serious jeopardy and that the new report doesn't address his agency's technical concerns.

On the Web:

Bechtel's report:

Exchanges between Energy Dept. and DNFSB:

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio

Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.