The Hanford Site, a vast nuclear complex along Washington's Columbia River that once produced plutonium for warheads, has come under fire from dozens of whistleblowers in its 71-year history. In recent decades, scientists and other involved experts have criticized the $40 billion cleanup effort, citing mismanagement and other problems, including releases of airborne cancer-causing radionuclides and groundwater contamination. Whistleblowers have often been fired or sidelined ("The Hanford Whistleblowers," HCN, 2/3/14).
On Feb. 18, Donna Busche, an environmental and nuclear safety manager at Hanford, became the latest to be fired. Busche, employed by subcontractor URS, has pushed for reforms since 2010, even warning that a waste-treatment plant might explode; in response, she reportedly faced harassment from overseers and filed two whistleblower complaints. While URS denied the firing was connected to her allegations, Tom Carpenter, director of watchdog group Hanford Challenge, called Busche another victim of Hanford's "war on whistleblowers."