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Hearing Focuses On Progress Of Hanford's Safety Culture

The Hanford Nuclear Reservation’s waste treatment plant is making progress on improving its safety culture. That’s the upshot of a hearing Tuesday in Washington, D.C. before a federal nuclear watchdog agency. But not everyone familiar with the nuclear site agreed with that positive assessment.

The Department of Energy and its Hanford contractors have been under intense scrutiny after several whistleblowers and federal investigators found a “flawed” safety culture at the nuclear site. The hearing at the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board was a progress report.

The Energy Department’s David Huizenga testified that major contractors on the waste treatment plant project are being offered new financial incentives to pay closer attention to safety. But one union worker, John David alleges he was fired from his position at Bechtel just last month after he raised safety concerns. He blames Bechtel’s Hanford manager Frank Russo.

“He doesn’t listen to us, his team doesn’t listen to us,” David says. “They fire us.”

Bechtel spokesman Todd Nelson says David was fired after he violated work rules developed by both the contractor and the unions.

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