The Department of Energy (DOE) continues to tout the importance of safety at nuclear facilities, while simultaneously ignoring legitimate safety concerns in the name of saving time and money.
Last week, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board delivered a scathing report on the ‘safety culture’, or lack thereof, being perpetuated by the DOE. Within that report, which focused on how the department handled safety complaints at a nuclear waste cleanup site in Richland, Washington, were statements from several witnesses who believed that raising safety issues could be detrimental to their career. One specific situation seemed to bear this out, in which a former Engineering Manager, Walter Tamosaitis, had raised several technical safety issues in July, and was abruptly removed from the project the next day.
These findings led the House Appropriations Committee to amend a proposed 2012 DOE budget document report, stating that:
"The most recent (defense board) report describes an environment where the professional exchange of views which a safety culture relies upon is discouraged and at times punished. These revelations are both alarming and disturbing and should be interpreted by the secretary of energy as a call to action."