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Despite Strides, Safety Culture Still In Question At Hanford Site

RICHLAND, Wash. – The Department of Energy says a Hanford contractor tried to interfere with an investigation into nuclear safety at the site. That’s according to letters from top Energy officials in an ongoing debate over the site’s safety culture.

Earlier this month independent investigators within the Department of Energy were conducting interviews about Hanford’s massive waste treatment plant. They wanted to interview Donna Busche, the plant’s nuclear and environmental safety manager and a high level critic.

But her employer -- contractor URS -- asked that the interview be put off until her supervisor could be present to observe. The Energy officials disagreed but her supervisor attended anyway.

In testimony this week, the Head of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Peter Winokur, questioned David Huizenga, Energy’s top environmental manager.

“My concern is that it’s a safety culture issue, another perception on the part of everyone on the workforce here, that we’re... I believe we are making progress, but maybe we aren’t making that much progress in terms of the safety culture issue at this project," Winokur said.

“I would agree that this is exactly the kind of thing that we don’t need,” Huizenga responded.

Busche is in litigation with her employer.

On the Web:

Read the Documents:

March 20: John Boulden to David Huizenga:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/86521937/March-20-John-Boulden-to-David-Huizenga

March 21: David Huizenga to Scott Samuleson:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/86521664/March-21-David-Huizenga-to-Scott-Samuleson

March 23: Scott Samuelson to Dr. J.G. Hwang:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/86522782/March-23-Scott-Samuelson-to-to-J-G-Hwang

March 23: Scott Samuelson to F.M. Russo:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/86522868/March-23-Scott-Samuelson-to-F-M-Russo

March 23: Scott Samuelson to Michael Johnson:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/86522935/March-23-Scott-Samuelson-to-Michael-Johnson

Donna Busche is the manager for environmental and nuclear safety at Hanford’s waste treatment plant. Photo by Anna King
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Donna Busche is the manager for environmental and nuclear safety at Hanford’s waste treatment plant. Photo by Anna King

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio

Copyright 2012 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.