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.
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