RICHLAND — Actions proposed by the Department of Energy to strengthen the nuclear safety culture at the Hanford vitrification plant represent a start, but DOE should take a closer look at the issue, said the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in a letter released Monday.
The defense board remains concerned that DOE does not agree with the findings of a defense board investigation into the nuclear safety culture of the plant. The safety culture concerns are related to the safe operation of the plant now under construction to turn radioactive waste into a stable glass form for disposal.
“The disparity between the stated acceptance and disagreement with the findings makes it difficult for the board to assess the response,” said the letter sent to Energy Secretary Steven Chu by defense board chairman Peter Winokur on Friday.
It asked that DOE look again at items such as union grievances related to vitrification plant design issues and the underlying data in a safety culture review by the DOE Office of Health, Safety and Security.
It also said DOE could learn meaningful lessons if it reviewed the effects on safety culture stemming from the way Walter Tamosaitis was removed from the project and his current treatment.
It has set a deadline of Sept. 19 for DOE to address those items.
The safety culture investigation began after Tamosaitis, the former research and technology manager at the plant, was abruptly removed from work on the plant in July 2010. He has filed a whistleblower lawsuit, alleging he lost his position for raising safety concerns, but DOE contractor Bechtel National disagrees, saying he wrote a disrespectful email.
Tamosaitis is still employed with Bechtel subcontractor URS, but without meaningful work in an office he shares with a copy machine, Tamosaitis said.