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Environment and Planning
00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d430000The Hanford Nuclear Reservation in southeast Washington was home to Native Americans and later to settlers. It turned into an top-secret military workhorse during World War II and the Cold War. Now, it’s one of the most pressing and complex environmental cleanup challenges humanity is facing in the world.This remote area in southeast Washington is where the federal government made plutonium for bombs during WWII and the Cold War. It’s now home to some of the most toxic contamination on earth, a witch’s brew of chemicals, radioactive waste and defunct structures. In central Hanford, leaking underground tanks full of radioactive sludge await a permanent solution. Meanwhile, a massive $12 billion waste treatment plant, designed to bind up that tank waste into more stable glass logs, has a troubled history.00000179-65ef-d8e2-a9ff-f5ef8d440000Anna King is public radio's correspondent in Richland, Washington, covering the seemingly endless complexities of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation.

Hanford Contractor Fires Prominent Whistleblower

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Anna King
/
Northwest News Network
Donna Busche was fired Tuesday morning from her high-level safety manager position with Hanford contractor URS. She says she finds comfort playing "tennis" with her boxer named Xena Warrior Princess.

A prominent whistleblower was fired from the Hanford Nuclear Reservation's radioactive waste cleanup project on Tuesday.

Donna Busche was vocal about what she calls problems at a massive treatment plant under construction at Hanford.

Busche was a high-level safety manager on a huge factory that is being built to bind-up radioactive waste in glass logs. That means her check-off on safety was required before construction could move ahead on the more than $12 billion plant. Federal watchdog officers have repeatedly asked for her testimony on the troubled project.

Busche says she was escorted out of her building in the early morning.

Company managers with the federal contractor that employed her told her she was being let go for "unprofessional conduct."

"I’ve had mixed emotions since I got home," Busche says. "Part of it’s a great relief, that I don’t have to go there, be disrespected, yelled at, interrupted every time I open my mouth, my manager signing off documents that are not ready to be released, that are not factually accurate."

Busche’s former employer, URS, says in a written statement, "Though URS supports Ms. Busche’s right to raise concerns and to express her personal views, we do not agree with her assertions that she suffered retaliation or was otherwise treated unfairly."