Federal Employees “Nuked” by Lack of Safety?

Oct 23, 2017


Federal workers now face a greater risk of injustice at their workplace because of diminishing safety considerations.

After a recent investigation, the Center for Public Integrity (CPI)—a non-profit investigative news organization in Washington, D.C.—concluded that our nuclear weapons complex repeatedly experiences alarming safety problems, including the mishandling of radioactive and nuclear explosive materials, which contaminates work areas that have injured or endangered federal employees at the sites.

During a review of the Uranium Processing Facility under construction at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee, technical staff at the Nuclear Facility Safety Board (NFSB) identified shortcuts contractors took that elevated the risk of a fire or nuclear chain reaction by eliminating protective barriers that had once been part of the plan.

Despite this, the chairman of the NFSB has told the director of the Office of Management and Budget that he favors downsizing or abolishing its safety inspectors.

Large private contractors that produce and maintain the country’s nuclear arms—most of which also contribute heavily to congressional election campaigns and spend sizable sums of money lobbying Washington—like this idea.

The chairman called the Board a “relic” of the Cold War that performs work duplicative to the safety oversight provided by the Energy Department (DOE) or the National Nuclear Security Administration, which finances the contractor’s work. The chairman has repeatedly voted against sending safety warning notices to the DOE And said that the Board’s recommendations have imposed a myriad of unnecessary costs for the department.

CPI’s Patrick Malone and R. Jeffrey Smith reported to USA Today (Thursday, October 19, 2017 edition) that other members of the Board said the chairman was not speaking for them and argued that other government agencies assigned to safeguard nuclear workers and the public near weapons sites are not capable of handling the task by themselves.

Submitted by Brad Harris, Senior Attorney of the Harris Federal Law Firm. Brad practices federal employee workers’ compensation law nationwide and can be reached at brad@harrisfederal.com or toll-free at (877) 226-2723. 

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