More outrage is building over prominent employees at Hanford blowing the whistle about how Bechtel has rushed the project in order to make a quick buck. Despite decades of cleanup efforts and billions of taxpayer dollars spent, only a tiny fraction of Hanford’s radioactivity has been safely contained, and the situation appears to be getting more polarized if not hostile.
On December 20th, 2012, a police report was filed related to a December 19th meeting at an office building where DOE employees were involved in a disagreement about how much money should be paid to Bechtel National for sodium reduction work at the vitrification plant at Hanford where Bechtel holds a $12.2 billion contract to build a facility to treat up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste left from the past production of plutonium from the nation’s nuclear weapons program.
The woman who filed the claim is an engineer for the Hanford Department of Energy Office of River Protection, reported that when she tried to leave the meeting she was physically restrained from walking out said Captain Mike Cobb of the Richland Police Department.
“The Department of Energy will not tolerate harassment, intimidation or other inappropriate behavior from its employees,” DOE said in a statement when asked about the police report. “Any and all allegations will be investigated promptly and thoroughly.”
At the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington State, where Bechtel is the clean-up contractor, the group was accused of 34 examples where design advice was factually incorrect, unsafe, or more costly than alternatives according to a leaked memo from the Department of Energy’s engineering director on the project. Gary Brunson said that Bechtel was “not competent to complete” its role working on a $12.3bn facility at America’s most contaminated nuclear site.
Senior scientists at the site have said that Bechtel’s designs for tanks and mixing equipment are technically flawed, and represent such a massive risk that work should be stopped on that part of the construction project. Then, in August of 2012, workers detected a leak of highly radioactive waste from the double-shelled tanks in multiple locations. One leak was so extensive it had created a “mound approximately 2 ft x 3 ft, and 8 inches deep.
After the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, Bechtel was contracted by the United States government to send emergency water pump cranes to the crippled nuclear power plant in an attempt to keep the reactors from melting down, but due to a bizarre situation where the cost of the equipment of $750,000 suddenly rose to $9.6 million dollars this action was delayed for weeks. This caused the USAID to look for other resources, which they received from the DoD, but only for one water pumping system, which did not even get dispatched to Japan until March 21st. By the 26th, over two full weeks after the earthquake and tsunami, the SDF was still training off-site on the Bechtel pumping system, but it was too late as explosions had already ripped through the buildings after the nuclear fuel overheated and melted.
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