19 August 1997
Source: E-mail direct.

Return-Path: <gap@accessone.com>
Date: Mon, 18 Aug 1997 13:17:09 -0700
To: gap@whistleblower.org
From: Tom Carpenter <gap@accessone.com>
Subject: Hanford Nuke Waste


GAP Releases White Paper on Hanford Tank Fiasco

DOE Ignores Scientists' Safety Concerns, Endangers Workers and Public

	The Government Accountability Project (GAP) recently published the
findings of its investigation into Hanford's ill-fated implementation of a
dangerous exhauster system designed to blow untreated toxic vapors from an
underground, high-level nuclear waste tank into the environment.  The
investigation disclosed that managers at the Department of Energy (DOE)'s
Richland office intimidated and silenced its own in-house technical
experts, who warned that the system could increase the cancer-causing
chemicals in the air, endangering workers as well as the public breathing
the air downwind of the tank.  Although managers at the Tank Farms -- where
67 million gallons of nuclear waste are stored in 177 underground tanks,
many of which have leaked -- were aware of the scientists' documented
concerns, they, along with the contractors being paid for the project,
installed the system anyway to meet a mandated Milestone of June 30, 1995.

	At the time of this decision, DOE managers were aware that the system
could violate the Clean Air Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery
Act, and other laws forbidding the knowing endangerment of employees and
the release of high levels of radionuclides into the air.  However,
concerned Hanford employees who disclosed the wrongdoing to GAP, as well as
internal DOE documents, confirmed that a decision was made at senior levels
to push the project forward to avoid the negative "optics" of failing to
meet a Milestone -- despite the potential danger to workers and the public.

	In March, 1997, the scientists' and engineers' concerns were proven
well-founded when a draft of an independent study by the Pacific Northwest
National Laboratory confirmed the dangers of inhalation exposure to the
vapors being blown out of Tank C-103.  The draft analysis, obtained by GAP,
contained alarming findings, including:

· The greatest risks are "generally beyond the security fence," since toxic
vapors are blown downwind.  As a result, workers on the site and the
general public downwind of the tank could inhale the vapors without even
knowing it.
· The study found severe risks to workers of contracting cancer.  The
cancer risk for an exposed tank worker is one in sixteen for a deflected
stack configuration, and one in 1,400 for a straight stack.  The threshold
of regulatory concern, called the "action level," is one in 1,000,000.
· The study found severe risks to workers of nonchronic toxicological
effects as well: 21.3 for a deflected stack and 0.2 for a straight stack,
with an action level of 1.

	In March, 1997, the Washington State Department of Ecology informed the
DOE that the system had failed to satisfy the cleanup Milestone -- a
concern the scientists and engineers had raised nearly two years earlier.
Furthermore, the system was shut down a few months after startup because
the air filters kept getting clogged -- another problem anticipated by the
DOE scientists and engineers.  Besides endangering workers and the public,
silencing its own scientific reviewers, and most likely violating safety
and environmental regulations, the DOE also failed to fulfill its cleanup
mandate -- all at a cost to the taxpayer of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

	"The actions of DOE management in this case are a direct betrayal of the
public trust, and they knowingly exposed Hanford workers to deadly
hazardous vapors.  They ignored their own technical experts and, acting in
their own interests instead of in the interest of the public, literally
blew off safety at Tank C-103.  We are calling on the Department of Justice
and the State Department of Ecology to investigate and prosecute the
managers responsible for this outrage," said Tom Carpenter, Director of the
West Coast Office of the Government Accountability Project.
	Copies of the GAP White Paper on this incident are available at the GAP


GAP is a nonprofit, public interest organization that promotes government
accountability and provides advocacy for workers who disclose dangerous,
illegal, or environmentally unsound practices on the job.