Despite Strides, Safety Culture Still In Question At Hanford Site

Mar 23, 2012

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. Correspondent Anna King reports.

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.

Peter Winokur: “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.

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

Busche is in litigation with her employer.

Copyright 2012 Northwest Public Radio