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Ads about Hanford seek whistle-blowers

John K. Wiley Associated Press

SPOKANE – A Hanford whistle-blower group has begun airing television and radio commercials encouraging workers who have witnessed safety lapses at the federal nuclear reservation to step forward.

The spots feature Matt Taylor, a former Hanford nuclear reservation worker and whistle-blower represented by the Government Accountability Project, a nonprofit, public interest organization and law firm that paid for the ads.

“Matt Taylor’s case is just one of dozens we encounter at Hanford every year,” Tom Carpenter, GAP nuclear oversight program director said in a news release. “These ads encourage Hanford workers to take a stand to protect their community, the environment and themselves.”

Hanford, part of the World War II Manhattan Project to make plutonium for nuclear weapons, stores about 53 million gallons of the most dangerous radioactive and chemical wastes in 177 underground tanks.

The federal nuclear reservation is now engaged in the cleanup of the nation’s largest collection of nuclear waste, a $2 billion-a-year job involving some 11,000 workers.

The spots began running Thursday and primarily will run in the Tri-Cities and Yakima areas, where many Hanford workers live, GAP said.

Department of Energy Hanford spokeswoman Colleen French declined to comment specifically on the GAP ads, but said: “In general, the safety of employees is our number one goal every day. Any employee … can make their concerns about safety known. We have an open door policy.”

Taylor worked for Hanford contractors from October 1997 to October 2001, filing a series of work safety complaints and alleging harassment, blacklisting and retaliation.

In the commercials, Taylor says he believes in hard work, teamwork and community and tells his three sons they have to stand up for those beliefs “even when it’s hard.” Taylor has claimed he was subject to physical assaults and vandalism to his home and vehicle after filing safety complaints.

“I finally asked some questions. I got harassed for it, even got threats against my home. And like others who spoke up, I lost my job,” Taylor says in the spots, which refer viewers and listeners to the GAP Web site.

Several Hanford contractors reached financial settlements with Taylor, who finally left Hanford in October 2001.

GAP has represented Hanford whistle-blowers since 1987.

The organization pushed for passage last year of Initiative 297, which prohibits dumping additional nuclear wastes at Hanford before existing waste is removed.

In 1992, the Energy Department issued regulations to protect contractor employees who raise health, safety, environmental and management concerns and to require investigations and action on such complaints. The department expanded that in 1996 by creating an Office of Employee Concerns in Washington to help handle employee complaints. The office typically handles 20 such cases each year.

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