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Hanford contractors work to reassure workers about safety

RICHLAND, Wash. – The heads of two Hanford Nuclear Reservation contractors tried to reassure workers with a memo this week. It says there is a strong safety culture on the massive waste treatment plant now under construction. The memo comes after several workers have come forward with concerns about the plant.

The massive waste treatment plant is meant to process 56 million gallons of radioactive waste at Hanford. But lately, more concerned workers have been coming forward.

Contractor Bechtel manager Frank Russo and URS manager Bill Gay say they are “vigorously contesting” a well known whistleblower’s claims against the companies.

Walter Tamosaitis has said there is a broken safety culture at Hanford. He also says he was unfairly taken out of his management role because he raised technical concerns with the plant. One of his claims is there could be an explosion in a mixing tank filled with radioactive waste because the mixers aren’t strong enough.

Russo and Gay defend the plant’s science and say construction needs to move ahead to complete the mission of taking care of this dangerous waste. In the words of both managers, “… safely achieving the mission is the only measure of success.”

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.