Walter Tamosaitis & WTP Concerns

October 4, 2013 update: Company fires scientist who warned of Hanford waste site problems

On October 2nd, Dr. Tamosaitis was laid off from his job after 44 years with URS.

Tamosaitis told the L.A. Times: “I enjoyed working and trying to do something for the country. They killed my career. It sends a message to everybody else that they shouldn’t raise issues. Forty-four years of service, a PhD, a recognized expert in nuclear engineering – none of that mattered.”

It is people like Walt, who continue to fight for safety concerns despite retaliation, that will save the public from catastrophe. Hanford Challenge is committed to supporting those who are working hard to ensure the safe and effective cleanup of the Hanford nuclear site.

Walter Tamosaitis – Engineer, Manager, Concerned Citizen

Dr. Walter Tamosaitis, Research & Technology Manager for the Waste Treatment Plant, was removed from the project in July 2010 after raising safety concerns.  The concerns include issues that would impact the overall safety and operation of the plant.  In Dr. Tamosaitis’s letter to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board he wrote, “I believe that the practices I have observed and experience in the WTP of seeking to suppress safety and other design concerns may adversely affect future public health and safety, result in a less-than-adequate design and waste taxpayer money.”

This case has garnered well deserved public attention because of the seriousness of both the concerns Dr. Tamosaitis brought forward, and because of the retaliation taken against him by his employer for stating the concerns at an internal meeting.

Evidence was released showing that a Federal Project Manager was involved in the removal of a senior technical manager who blew the whistle on safety and technical concerns at the Hanford Nuclear Site in southeastern Washington.

Department of Energy (DOE) manager, Dale Knutson, had earlier provided a sworn statement in a court proceeding that he did not direct Bechtel or URS, two contractors at the Hanford site, to “take any specific actions” in relation to Dr. Walter Tamosaitis, who was removed from his position after he raised significant safety concerns related to the design of the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) at Hanford.

In the intervening three years, multiple investigations by different government agencies have confirmed Dr. Tamosaitis’s issues, and his treatment at the hands of his employer, URS, has been characterized as retaliatory treatment against those employees who are brave enough to raise safety concerns.

On October 2nd, 2013, Dr. Tamosaitis was laid off from his job after 44 years with the company.

Dr. Tamosaitis told the L. A. Times: “I enjoyed working and trying to do something for the country,” he said. “They killed my career. It sends a message to everybody else that they shouldn’t raise issues. Forty-four years of service, a PhD, a recognized expert in nuclear engineering – none of that mattered.”

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz recently declared his commitment to protecting employees who raise these concerns stating: “We must not deter, discourage, or penalize employees for the timely identification of safety, health, environmental, quality, or security issues …” Yet, his office has been silent on Dr. Tamosaitis’s termination.

 New reports, information and articles on Dr. Tamosaitis and the Waste Treatment Plant will be posted on this page.

Read Dr. Walt Tamosaitis’ testimony to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security & Governmental affairs on national whistleblower protections.

Walt Tamosaitis files Fed Court Complaint Naming DOE and URS on November 9, 2011.

Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board Blasts Hanford and DOE, Issues Safety Culture Recommendations, June 9, 2011.

Department of Energy Official “In the Loop” on Termination of  Prominent Whistleblower. Read entire press release, March 21, 2011.

More news & updates:

Historical Note

Construction at the Waste Treatment PlantBechtel has a history of retaliating against whistleblowers.  See documents below.

DOE Employee Concerns Report on WTP, finding Chilled Work Environment, January 18, 2005

  • 2007 decision by DOE finding that Bechtel retaliated against Curtis Hall, a Waste Treatment Plant worker who became a whistleblower.
  • Enforcement action against Bechtel for whistleblower reprisal.
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