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5:54 pm
Tue December 6, 2011

Hanford whistleblower seeks stronger protection laws in Senate testimony

Originally published on Tue December 6, 2011 5:22 pm

The U.S. Senate heard testimony Tuesday on protecting whistleblowers who work on federal projects. A key witness was the well-known Hanford Nuclear Reservation whistleblower Walt Tamosaitis.

He testified he was taken out of his high-level management role on Hanford's waste treatment plant after he raised safety concerns. He now works in a basement office.

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill asked Tamosaitis what effect that has had on the larger project.

"So every day you are an example to all the workers there, whether they are federal employees or Bechtel employees, 'don't say anything or you too will be banished to the basement,'" McCaskill asked.

"Yes Senator. Very directly," Tamosaitis responded. "It's a very visible example of what happens if you speak up."

Tamosaitis asked senators to increase protections for contractor employees who are willing to come forward to expose retaliation, safety concerns and fraud — especially on federal projects.

Also this week, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu sent a memo reemphasizing the agency's commitment to a strong safety culture. Chu says people who express safety concerns shouldn't face retribution or a penalty for doing so.

On the Web:

Hearing - Whistleblower protections for government contractors:

http://hsgac.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Hearing&Hearing_id=8e7aa55f-f382-4c0b-8c01-0820094d0679

Hearing video:

http://www.senate.gov/fplayers/jw57/urlMP4Player.cfm?fn=govtaff120611&st=1245&dur=6390

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