DOE writes employees about criticism of Hanford safety

Jun 21, 2011

RICHLAND, Wash. – The U.S. Department of Energy is defending its safety culture at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington. The agency sent its workers a letter in response to harsh criticism this month in a report by a federal nuclear watchdog.

Last week the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board called the safety culture at Hanford “flawed.” The report was especially critical of the massive waste treatment plant project that’s meant to stabilize 53-million-gallons of radioactive sludge.

In response, Energy deputy secretary Daniel Poneman wrote workers that his agency has done its own research and will point out what he calls “inaccuracies in the board’s report.”

 The letter also says the waste treatment plant project has changed from a “design-construct approach to a construct-commission approach.” That’s largely what the Safety Board says is wrong with the project – that it’s pushing ahead too quickly.

The board says in its report that a top engineer was ousted from his job after he raised safety concerns. The new Energy department letter tells employees they should feel comfortable coming forward with any safety issues.

Copyright 2011 Northwest Public Radio