SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Whistle-blower Donna Busche, who raised safety concerns at the nation’s most polluted nuclear weapons production site, was fired Tuesday from her job at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.
Busche’s complaints are part of a string of whistle-blower and other claims related to the design and safety of an unfinished waste treatment plant at Hanford.
Busche, 50, said she was called into the office Tuesday morning and told she was being fired for cause.
“I turned in my key and turned in my badge and left the building,” Busche told the Associated Press in a telephone interview from Richland.
Busche worked for URS Corp., which is helping build a $12 billion plant to turn Hanford’s most dangerous wastes into glass. Construction of the plant has been halted over safety concerns. Busche has filed complaints with the federal government, alleging she has suffered retaliation since filing her original safety complaint in 2011.
Hanford was created by the federal government in the 1940s as part of the top-secret project to build the atomic bomb, and cleanup costs today run about $2 billion annually.
Central to the cleanup is dealing with 53 million gallons of highly radioactive waste left from decades of plutonium production for the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal. The waste is stored in 177 aging underground tanks, many of which have leaked, threatening the groundwater and the neighboring Columbia River.
The U.S. Department of Energy is investigating Busche’s safety concerns, while the U.S. Department of Labor is reviewing her complaints about retaliation and harassment.
URS Corp. said in a statement it encourages employees to raise safety concerns.
Busche is the second Hanford whistle-blower to be fired by URS in recent months. Walter Tamosaitis, who also raised safety concerns about the plant, was fired in October after 44 years of employment.
Tom Carpenter of the watchdog group Hanford Challenge called Busche’s firing an act of desperation.
“They couldn’t make her leave,” Carpenter said. “Hanford’s war on whistle-blowers has taken a new victim.”
Full article: Whistle-blower fired from Hanford nuclear site (USA Today)