Transparency Triumph of the Week: Watchdog sticks up for nuclear whistleblower

After an investigation that lasted nearly a year, engineer Walter Tamosaitis is finally getting government support for blowing the whistle on nuclear practices by the Energy Department.

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, an independent watchdog agency within the government, rebuked Energy Secretary Steven Chu and supported Tamosaitis in his claim that a $12.3 billion nuclear project’s safety culture has serious flaws.

The investigation into the engineer’s claims showed that he was unfairly removed from work on a nuclear project that was supposed to handle radioactive waste materials located near Hanford, Wash., after asking uncomfortable questions about its design.

63-year-old Tamosaitis was redirected into a basement storage room where he had little work to do, according to the LA Times.

He questioned engineering experts about the chemical mixing technology incorporated into the Hanford project’s design, which carried several risks, including the potential for hydrogen gas explosions.

Tamosaitis’ treatment is under investigation by the Labor Department.

Although the Energy Department’s handling of Tamosaitis is deplorable, at least a government watchdog has finally stepped up in support of him and has criticized the agency for its mishandling of both Tamosaitis and the project he was questioning.

– Morgan Watkins

Morgan Watkins is SPJ’s summer Pulliam/Kilgore Freedom of Information intern and a University of Florida student. Reach her by email (mwatkins@spj.org) or connect with her on Twitter (@morganwatkins26).

 

 

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