Energy Department Watchdog Critical of Nuclear-Waste Plant Contractor

Workers demolish a decommissioned nuclear reactor during the cleanup operations at the Western hemisphere's most contaminated nuclear site in Hanford, Washington state on March 21, 2011. It sounded like a good idea at the time. Racing to build an atomic bomb during World War II, US authorities sealed off a pristine desert and created the first-ever plutonium reactor. Sixty-eight years later, Hanford remains off limits. Not because of weapons work, which has long ago ceased, but because it is the Western hemisphere's most contaminated nuclear site with 53 million gallons (200 million liters) of radioactive waste stored in aging tanks. With billions of dollars a year invested in cleanup, there is little palpable fear among residents here in the northwestern state of Washington. Some 12,000 people work at Hanford, which at 586 square miles (1,518 square kilometers) is twice the size of Singapore.
National Journal
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Clare Foran
Oct. 3, 2013, 9:41 a.m.

The De­part­ment of En­ergy In­spect­or Gen­er­al’s Of­fice re­leased an audit re­port cri­ti­ciz­ing gov­ern­ment con­tract­or and con­struc­tion be­hemoth Bechtel for not sub­ject­ing ma­ter­i­als and equip­ment used in the con­struc­tion of a $12.2 bil­lion nuc­le­ar-waste treat­ment plant in Han­ford, Wash., to prop­er qual­ity in­spec­tions, The Wash­ing­ton Post re­ports.

The re­port also faults the En­ergy De­part­ment, which is su­per­vising the pro­ject set to be built on a fed­er­ally owned former nuc­le­ar-weapons site, for a lack of over­sight.

Ac­cord­ing to the re­port, “Bechtel ap­proved design changes to equip­ment without ob­tain­ing the re­quired safety re­view to de­term­ine the im­pact of changes on the safety of the fa­cil­ity. Ad­di­tion­ally, Bechtel did not prop­erly veri­fy that de­vi­ations from designs made by sup­pli­ers con­formed to design re­quire­ments.”

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