Whistleblower on MSNBC: Criticality possible at Hanford — We could end up with explosion like Fukushima — Warns of larger release of radioactive material (VIDEO)

Published: December 18th, 2011 at 7:18 am ET


Whistleblower pays price for voicing nuke safety concerns, MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, Dec. 15, 2011:

Dr. Walter Tamosaitis, Research & Technology Manager for the Waste Treatment Plant processing Hanford’s radioactive waste

Walt Tamosaitis, nuclear waste whistleblower and Tom Carpenter, attorney and executive director of the non-profit group Hanford Challenge, talks with Rachel Maddow about safety concerns at the site and the penalties he has suffered as a consequence of speaking about his concerns.

Transcript Excerpts

At ~7:00 in

MADDOW: Dr. Tamosaitis, can you describe your safety concerns at Hanford [nuclear waste facility in Washington] for the non-nuclear engineers among us?

TAMOSAITIS: Yes, ma`am. The major concern is poor mixing in the vessels, the tanks that process the hazardous nuclear waste. And if you have poor mixing in the tank, you can build up solids, the solids can trap hydrogen gas. You can have solids build up on the bottom of the tank which can lead to a criticality.

So, trapping a hydrogen gas can lead to a fire or an explosion. And the solids buildup could lead to a criticality.

At ~9:45 in

MADDOW: In terms of — Dr. Tamosaitis, let me go back to you. In terms of your safety concerns and, again, speaking to a public that may not be, including myself, all that familiar with the processes you`re describing there, what is the greatest risk that you think is possible here based on corners that you`ve seen cut? Are we looking at something that could be more than the kind of leaks that Hanford has already experienced? Are we talking about something that could be a larger release of radioactive material?

TAMOSAITIS: Yes, ma`am. Yes, Rachel, we are. If we have poor mixing, we could trap hydrogen gas, we could end up with a fire or explosion, as we saw on the TV at Fukushima in Japan.

Note the interesting exchange during Tomasitis’ recent Senate testimony at around 3:00 in

DR. WALTER TAMOSAITIS, URS: Bechtel is still in charge of the project. Yes, Senator.

SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: And everyone sees you go to work in the basement with no windows?

TAMOSAITIS: Yes. Yes, ma`am.

MCCASKILL: And knows that you are not allowed to work even though you`re there on site and getting paid?


MCCASKILL: So everyone — so every day you are an example to all the workers there, whether they`re federal employees or Bechtel employees, don`t say anything or you too will be banished to the basement?

TAMOSAITIS: Yes, Senator. Very directly. It`s a very visible example of what happens if you speak up. Advertise | AdChoices

MCCASKILL: It`s just unbelievable to me that we`ve allowed this to occur.

Watch video here

Published: December 18th, 2011 at 7:18 am ET


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51 comments to Whistleblower on MSNBC: Criticality possible at Hanford — We could end up with explosion like Fukushima — Warns of larger release of radioactive material (VIDEO)

    • Whoopie Whoopie

      h/t James2 i believe.
      Hanford Possibilty: Underground Nuclear Test

    • Alice goaskAlice

      **waves to Whoopie

      I suppose Bechtel must still believe in the quaint notion of ostracism which may have served a function during the pre-internet era but is no longer viable as a scare tactic.

      They really need to invent a new way to terrify employees.

      Banished! That dreaded word.

      Dr. Tamosaitis deserves a medal.

      • Whoopie Whoopie

        So true goaskalice. They can’t get away with stuff like they used to…the very reason they want to close the Internet down.
        New Tweet:

        • Alice goaskAlice

          Yes, I read that article and I take my tinfoil hat off to them.

          The understanding has dawned on them that there’s no living happily after.

        • Whoopie Whoopie

          Dont forget. That Internet Bill- they are gonna try to sneak it in next week. I guess we could fill email boxes of our elected officials. What else can we do? Dunno.

          • CB CB

            I googled the reactor,
            The B Reactor at the Hanford Site, near Richland, Washington, USA, was the first large-scale nuclear reactor ever built.
            2011 July National Park Service recommends B Reactor be included in a national historic park commemorating the Manhattan Project.

          • CB CB

            It’s a bullshit bill, like burning books. libricide

            • Bones Bones

              Did anyone see that Switzerland passed a law declaring downloads, for personal use without profit, are legal. This includes pirated music and movies. They are the true beacon of Democracy a Direct Democracy. They don’t buy the RIAA and MPAA bullshat.

              • Bones Bones

                Forgot to add that the record companies and execs received the largest profits last year. Studies in Switzerland, have proved that piracy actually leads to more purchases and more money to these greedy corporations. The bill is an underhanded grab at our rights. We all know that. I haven’t been proud of this country for over half of my short existence. This government does not represent me nor anyone else my age. If I am not represented, what am I?

                • or-well

                  An asset or a liability to the corporation.

                • aigeezer aigeezer

                  “If I am not represented, what am I?”

                  a consumer.

                • Blondie Blondie

                  According to the banksters et al, you’re an “economic unit”.

                • I know, you’re a doctor not a politician, but what you say is right on, I think.

                  I always sensed piracy would lead to more purchases. Makes sense from the free advertising point of view. Smart companies would put a band’s songs out for free download as a savvy marketing manoevre.

                  Also, the internet itself is becoming a free democracy, but possibly only at the communications stage, though increasingly converted into action. Problem is, the world is becoming increasingly unequal. Inequality itself causes all kinds of havoc in societies, social, political, economic, all kinds of f*k-ups.

                  This guy (Wilkerson) explains the link:

                  Richard Wilkinson: How economic inequality harms societies

                  Haven’t read much on whether “they” can shut down the internet. They need it for their own systems, or they may try to have only their own private networks. If they can do that, so can we. One single server with a wireless router and you’re still up and running. But, since an internet is a network of networks, you’d technically need at least two working servers.

                  In terms of problem-solving at a global level, after some university stuff I did recently (Communications Theory) I can boldly say that keeping the internet up and running (thereby increasing what is called two-way symmetric communication) you increase the choices, chances to solve problems and get better outcomes.

                  In other words, it would actually be stupid to shut it down, or, as Spok would say, “Illogical.”

              • BreadAndButter BreadAndButter

                They let the folks enjoy free downloads, while collecting the world’s dirty money and being homebase of some of the most corrupt organisations / companies: FIFA, IOC, Nestlé,…..

                *they do make good chocolate, though

      • aigeezer aigeezer

        “I suppose Bechtel must still believe in the quaint notion of ostracism…”

        Interesting point – it’s got me musing (slightly off topic) about how nation states still try to apply sanctions – their version of ostracism – in the Internet era.

        Things are changing fast. The 20th century model seems to be collapsing on various fronts, hopefully for the better.

        Thanks for your insightful observation about corporate ostracism.

    • Anne Harris, employed by TVA, gives a chilling account of the politics of the nuke industry, insights into Fukushima and the intentional psychological damage inflicted on nuke workers, potential whistle blowers and citizens by nuke.gov to keep their racket going. nothing about the nuke op is quaint.

      Part 1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=77vkuPtqN4A
      Part 2 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=47PeWCIdyX4

  • or-well


    If Whistleblowers were
    HONORED with wide popular acclaim,
    PROTECTED by applied legislation,
    SUPPORTED by critical, independent media,

    we’d have a chorus, a symphony, a packed stadium concert of Whistleblowers !

    Singing solo takes guts.

    • Whoopie Whoopie

      So true OW. What a great idea. Ain’t gonna happen as long as we’re run by Corporations. Bethel: BIG CONTRACT IN IRAQ. Figures eh?

  • Whoopie Whoopie

    “We’re not gonna take it anymore!!”
    (Network the Movie)
    Japan Tweeters filling up Tweet Page

    #Japan?s Prime Minister declares Fukushima nuclear site ?stable?, marking the worst stretching of the truth by a… http://t.co/6ioZqsYy
    5 minutes ago

    • or-well

      I love “Network”, truth in absurdity, that whole “mad as hell” speech, so classic and timely.

  • milk and cheese milk and cheese

    Hanford has been leaking radiation for years, and is poisoning the local river.
    A major ‘release’ from this plant would poison the entire lower 48 states. Take a look at the wind patterns.

  • jackassrig

    When they say leaking into the rivers they are talking about the Columbia River. Hanford was surrounded by I believe 3 nuclear reactors the ones Whoops owned. I’m not sure if those plants where ever decommissioned. The Richland area is or was surrounded by nucs.

  • or-well

    Non-disclosure, Rights you waiver

    Later speak, get branded “raver”

    Lose the job, take a smear

    Anonymous calls, family fear

    Lose career and reputation

    Avoid secluded meet locations

    Back up proof, have strong friends

    Consider the others

    Untimely ends.

  • or-well

    My point is we can’t ask whistleblowers to come forward without solid protections in place when Power already has so many ways of attacking them with more coming.

    Since when is “whistleblowing” NOT Medias’ job ?

    I fear the FALSE equating of whistleblowers with “terr-ur-itz”.

  • midwestern midwestern

    Deputy Secretary Daniel Poneman’s remarks at the Tokyo American Center (as prepared for delivery):


    “…In addition, because of the United States’ unique expertise in nuclear cleanup operations, Japan has requested strategic support from the U.S. Department of Energy for efforts to decommission the Fukushima Daiichi plant, to manage the site from an environmental standpoint, and to pursue off-site remediation efforts.

    Cold War weapons production efforts in the United States left our country with a significant nuclear cleanup legacy, including high-level waste, contaminated soil and groundwater, and a large number of facilities to decontaminate and decommission. For example, at the Hanford Site in Washington State and at the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, we have a total of more than 90 million gallons of liquid waste in tanks that we are working to convert into more stable forms that do not threaten our environment.

    Over the last decade, the U.S. has undertaken ambitious efforts to treat this nuclear waste, and these ongoing operations have given the Department of Energy and our contractors unique capabilities and skills that are immediately applicable to Japan’s effort to clean up and decommission the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. We know how to characterize the waste, how to identify the facilities that are needed to treat that waste safely and effectively, and we know how to plan for its safe removal and treatment…”

    • midwestern midwestern

      Please take a moment to read this speech. We’re bringing the US’ ‘unique capabilities and skills’ in the area of nuclear waste to Fukushima? Uh oh…
      And witness the US nuke community putting intense pressure on Japan to continue commitment to nuke power even while they agonize over the out of control situation at Fukushima.

      • Whoopie Whoopie

        Very telling midwestern. Intense pressure to continue. Of course, the NRC is bound and determined to keep their Profits up, while disregarding THE REAL STORY OF FUK. That’s sick! Shut them all down.

    • aigeezer aigeezer

      “We know how to characterize the waste, how to identify the facilities that are needed to treat that waste safely and effectively, and we know how to plan…”

      Wow! They know how to characterize, identify, and plan.

      If only they knew how to dispose of it safely.

    • aigeezer aigeezer

      “Cold War weapons production efforts in the United States left our country with a significant nuclear cleanup legacy, including high-level waste, contaminated soil and groundwater, and a large number of facilities to decontaminate and decommission.”

      He seems very proud of this “legacy”.

  • Whoopie Whoopie

    Interesting comments here if your interested:

  • midwestern midwestern

    EPA allowed unsafe handling of asbestos, IG says:

    “…Elkins said his office’s preliminary research showed that the unsafe demolition methods — designed to save time and money — have been used more recently at the Hanford Superfund Site near Richland, Wash., a former Department of Energy nuclear weapons production site, and are under consideration at a DOE-owned uranium enrichment facility in Paducah, Ky.

    The EPA should “immediately and clearly communicate” to its various offices that only approved methods should be used during the demolition of asbestos-containing buildings, the IG said. The agency should retract all approvals — such as the one given at Hanford — that deviate from long-established practices designed to protect workers and the public from microscopic asbestos fibers, which can lodge in the lungs and cause cancer and other serious diseases, Elkins wrote.”

  • many moons

    I can’t help thinking if this same threat came from the outside, from the middle-east or some “group” then the the US population and goverment wouldn’t allow the radiosctive threats to continue. However by slapping a big business title on the whole thing we bow and say well we will deal with this or let the authorities do what they think is best. Unreal!
    Hanford is not only a bigger threat to our enviroment than Russia could have ever been, but where will we be after every person in the US will be responsible for the fiancial part of this clean-up. Interesting, we don’t get a share of the profits but if something goes wrong we get to foot the bill for the clean-up! Baah=OK

    • or-well

      Baa baa black sheep
      Have you any wool ?

      You do ? GOOD !
      We’re gonna shear you !

      And the little piggy ran all the way to the BANK oinking “HAHA SUCKERS !”

      We’ve been fleeced.

      • Whoopie Whoopie

        The NRC: Blatant, bald-faced­­, unabashed, shameless, impudent, audacious, brazen hypocrisy

        • many moons

          If someone was invading your house with the intent to get your money at whatever cost…harm you or your children, you would fight them off. We need to fight off the Pro Nuke administration here in the US BEFORE we need to leave our homes like poor folks of Japan. Better to fight now than flee later!!!!

  • The Superfund clean up sites USED TO BE funded by the corporations that created the messes.

    Guess who pays for cleaning up the messes now? TAXPAYERS

    Corporations used to go bankrupt and investors lost their money in risky, casino gambling types of this class of investments. Guess who pays to bail out these companies with corporate welfare? TAXPAYERS

    TEPCO ran a nuclear power program for many years, and profits were HUGE. But now that they created this disaster at FUKU, guess who pays to clean it up? TAXPAYERS

    The whole nuclear industry is so dangerous, that no prudent investor wants to put their money into it to build anymore nuclear plants. Guess who pays to build new plants and rescue the failed or blown up ones? TAXPAYERS

    Guess who pays to store the radioactive nuclear waste for BILLIONS of years, which is generated by short term greedy corporations who care nothing about the environment or human health? These companies can disappear overnight (keep all of their ill gotten profits) and who ends up with the bill?

  • How many generations of YOUR kids will it take to guard this garbage from the nuclear industry, both military and civilian? Do you really think that they care one iota about your kids and their health? Where is the money coming from to keep this waste safe and to guard it from terrorists for BILLIONS of years?

    Long half life radioactive elements
    Part I http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/3047473 Elements 1-9
    Part II http://www.care2.com/c2c/share/detail/3048444 Elements 10-13

  • many moons

    We have painted the world into a corner. It’s fast becoming a very small area, intead of inhabited or uninhabited it will be contaminated or still not contaminated.

  • the yeoman the yeoman

    OK…please tell I’m not the only one who felt alittle uneasy about that neoliberal exchange at the end. hold-on I’m going to listen to it again…yeah…pick it up at about 10:35, its the last question.

    There I said it…neoliberal. Unclear on what that means, thats ok I understand…may I humbly suggest you read this


    Also, about 7:28 in…listen to that exchange…they make it sound like the waste, you know, Sludge of a sort, if we just did it right, its ok (pat on the head). GFD BS Yeah and we’re going to be paying folks like Bechtel till the end of time, to keep us safe the nasty evil radiation.

    feel the love thanks rachel, thanks msnbc, thanks advisory class.
    i feel a song coming on