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Energy's deputy secretary to address safety at Hanford

RICHLAND, Wash. – The number two manager at the U.S. Department of Energy is scheduled to speak to workers at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation today. The visit comes after criticism of Hanford's safety culture by a federal nuclear safety watchdog.

In the shadow of Hanford's gigantic waste treatment plant, Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman plans to speak to 1,500 workers. He’ll also meet separately with smaller groups of randomly selected Hanford contractor employees.

Carrie Meyer, an Energy spokeswoman, says some of those meetings will be formatted like town halls and not include Hanford managers.

"They will also be taking questions from workers, concerns, suggestions or just general recommendations," Meyer said.

The federal Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board said last month that the safety culture at the Hanford waste treatment plant is flawed. The agency's big concern is that Hanford workers don't feel comfortable to raise safety issues.

Meyer says Poneman's visit is not directly linked to that criticism.

Meanwhile, a top cleanup manager for Energy, Inez Triay, is stepping down, she says to care for her sick father.

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio

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.