March 11, 2014

Wyden Defends Hanford Whistleblowers, Blasts Culture of Secrecy in Senate Roundtable

Washington, D.C. – Sen. Ron Wyden, D- Ore., today stood up for whistleblowers and expressed his ongoing concerns about the culture of secrecy at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation site in a roundtable discussion before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight.

The subcommittee held a roundtable discussion prior to a hearing on the same subject to allow two whistleblowers, Dr. Walter Tamosaitis and Donna Busche, an opportunity to speak publicly. Both Tamosaitis and Busche were fired after voicing concerns about ongoing safety problems at Hanford.

“Rather than fix the problems at Hanford, the contractors and Federal agencies involved are simply trying to silence the people who raise concerns,” Wyden said. “The only way these serious matters have become public knowledge is because courageous, committed employees like these two individuals have come forward to tell us and to tell the American people.

I will continue working with Sen. McCaskill to get to the bottom of what’s going on at Hanford, starting with our request to GAO to investigate not only the actions of the contractors in retaliating against whistleblowers, but also those of the DOE, which has done nothing to stop this unacceptable behavior.”

In addition to asking the Government Accountability Office for an investigation into the DOE’s role in the firings, Wyden last week released documents detailing new safety risks from flawed nuclear waste storage tanks at Hanford. Wyden has repeatedly called on the Department of Energy to protect whistleblowers and to improve the safety of the site.

Tom Carpenter, executive director of the Hanford Challenge, also participated in the roundtable discussion. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., chairs the Subcommittee on Financial and Contracting Oversight.

Watch Wyden’s remarks here.