A senior project official at the waste treatment plant at the former Hanford nuclear weapons complex was fired on Tuesday.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Donna Busche, a nuclear engineer and health physicist employed by San Francisco-based URS Corp was fired after allegations she made over several years that the project was ignoring serious safety problems.
Busche said executives at the company told her she was being fired for “unprofessional conduct.” The company denied that her dismissal was connected any criticism of the project.
Familiar story of whistleblower fired
The recent stories of Donna Busche getting fired for raising concerns about safety is very similar to a series of events from October when another high profile employee of URS Corp. made news and drew attention to the Hanford Site.
The attached video is an interview with Dr. Walter Tamosaitis, who claims he was released from his job after 44 years of service because he raised nuclear safety issues about the Hanford Site.
Senator Ron Wyden and Senator Edward J. Markey wrote to Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz expressing concerns over the dismissal and the bad precedent that would set back efforts to improve the department’s safety culture
Most contaminated nuclear site
The Hanford Site is a former nuclear weapons production complex operated by the United States federal government on the Columbia River in the state of Washington.
The project once had nine nuclear reactors and five large plutonium processing complexes active, and produced plutonium for nuclear weapons.The last reactor producing plutonium and electricity was shut down in 1987. Since that time Hanford’s mission has been to clean up the site after decades of weapons production activities has left a tremendous amount of nuclear waste behind.
The Hanford site has been making news for years over various safety issues as America's most contaminated nuclear site.
The potential danger of carelessness and coverups
The issues at the Hanford Site are a reminder of the potential for dangerous disasters as a result of carelessness.
As we mentioned in the recent West Virginia chemical spill, an act of environmental terrorism, such as contaminating a water supply, could cause a tremendous amount of political chaos and social disruption.
The left over waste from the nuclear weapons complex at Hanford is ready made supply of material for a terrorist to use in making dirty bombs or contaminating the water supply.
Whether we are talking about toxic chemicals, in the case of the West Virginia chemical spill, or nuclear waste as described here at the Hanford Site, acts of carelessness and coverups can not be tolerated.
Are you prepared?
Recently in the midst of renewed concerns over radiation leaks at Japan, we presented the article "Environmentalist Mark Lynas claims opposing nuclear power is a mistake." The article included a BBC news video by Lynas delivering a decent presentation on the merits of nuclear power.
As we look at nuclear power as a potential area of concern for a disaster we try to put the overall issue of nuclear safety in balance. But even with increased safety and safeguards, as we see in the story of the Hanford Site, carelessness when dealing with dangerous materials increase the odds for a disaster.