DOE engineer files police report alleging incident at meeting

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 9, 2013 

A Department of Energy engineer has filed a police report alleging she was physically prevented from leaving a Hanford meeting in December.

The report was filed Dec. 20 about a Dec. 19 meeting at an office building at 3000 George Washington Way, Richland police confirmed. The confrontation reportedly happened between two DOE employees and involved a disagreement about how much money should be paid to Bechtel National, which is building the Hanford vitrification plant.

The woman reported that as she tried to leave the meeting someone grabbed her arm to keep her from walking out, said Capt. Mike Cobb of the Richland police. She is an engineer for the Hanford Department of Energy Office of River Protection.

Cobb said officers still are interviewing witnesses and the investigation is continuing.

"The Department of Energy will not tolerate harassment, intimidation or other inappropriate behavior from its employees," DOE said in a statement when asked about the police report. "Any and all allegations will be investigated promptly and thoroughly."

However, DOE would not talk about the incident, describe what happened or name the people involved, saying it would be inappropriate to discuss a personnel matter.

Police heard conflicting statements about whether the report stemmed from an informal gathering to mark the retirement of a co-worker or a formal Hanford-related meeting.

However, the Herald confirmed that a DOE regularly scheduled integrated project team meeting was held Dec. 19 and there was a discussion of what Bechtel should be paid for sodium reduction work at the vitrification plant.

Bechtel holds the $12.2 billion contract to build a plant to treat up to 56 million gallons of radioactive waste left from the past production of plutonium from the nation's nuclear weapons program.

Sodium can be added to the waste to keep constituents dissolved and the waste fluid. But the more sodium is added to the waste, the volume increases and more canisters of glassified waste are produced.

Bechtel has submitted a request for at least part of a $15 million incentive payment for reducing sodium. DOE still is evaluating whether payment should be made.

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