Conspiracy Alleged in Energy Worker Exposure at Hanford, Portsmouth

by Tony E. Rutherford, News Editor
Hanford worker
Hanford worker

A draft report concerning safety violations at the Hanford nuclear site in southeastern Washington has implications for workers at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant, according to former PGDP employee and whistleblower, Jeff Walburn.

The Hanford draft expert  investigation spurred by KING-TV following 60 worker complaints of illness "condemns" chemical vapor releases from underground tanks. KING reported, "he problems revealed include not protecting workers with appropriate safety gear, ignoring expert advice gathered over decades on how to make the worksite safer, and deceiving employees on the severity of the chemical exposures."

The allegations include "flawed science to measure worker exposure." Some of the testing procedures for exposure took place 45 to 120 minutes after incidents when  chemicals had already dissipated. The Hanford report stated that too that inhalation measurements were not in real time "short bursts." Instead, exposure was spread out over hours.

Walburn has made similar allegations and provided documented evidence that the same broken worker and leaking measurement protocols apply to PGDP, too. He stated that "garbage in, garbage out" scientific toxicology determinations place in doubt compensation and disability determinations of all Energy Worker Occupational Compensation (EEOICPA) decisions, which  rely on a sophisticated formula for re-creating and estimating worker dosimeter exposures where no records of radioactive testing exist.

The  decommissioning  of the Ohio plant has been filled with safety lapse incidents, too. Missing uranium went into the environment through "outgassing" that spread beyond the plant fences. The effect on workers and residents breathing and ingesting these chemicals have been ignored in both Hanford and Portsmouth.

Hanford came under suspicion after the firing of nuclear safety manager Donna Busche who raised safety concerns about designs for the Waste Treatment Plant there.  An inspection by the inspector general was dropped after the contractor refused to provide the contents of 4,500  documents citing attorney client privilege.

In a 1.5 page Memorandum, the OIG report, the   [Department of Energy] stated, “both contractors took the position that the documents in question were subject to either attorney-client or attorney work product privilege. Also URS made a unilateral determination that certain document were not relevant to our examination.”

The Inspector General, Gregory Friedman, pointed out in the Memorandum that “specific terms of the contract” required the contractors to “produce for government audit all documents acquired or generated under the contract, including those which attorney-client and attorney work product privilege was asserted.” But, he said, the contractors claimed that the contract provisions “were unenforceable.”

Based on the refusal of the contractors, the Memorandum concluded, “We were unable to complete our inquiry and accordingly disclaim any opinion regarding the circumstances of Ms. Busche’s termination.”

Hanford Challenge, which advocates for the workers, has demanded that the DOE demand accountability of its contractors who have refused to provide documents.

IG Gregory Friedman conducted an earlier PGDP investigation which discounted employee concerns.

Walburn has accused the DOE IG and a Dept. of Labor IG of a "criminal conspiracy" to protect contractors that do work for the Department of Energy at plants, such as Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion, Padducah and potentially the Huntington Pilot Plant , of deceiving employees about their "safety" while at work.

"The Dept. of Energy is aware of (previously) hidden Portsmouth logs but are refusing to investigate," Walburn said. Documents concerning outgassing (radioactive chemical releases) at Portsmouth were provided anonymously to an attorney, Walburn said.

Documents have been provided by Walburn to the general accounting office, DOE, DOL, and various Senators. HANFORD REPORT

  1. IG Letter (360.52 KB)
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