Bechtel National plans to argue Monday that Hanford whistleblower Walter Tamosaitis doesn't have his facts right and his lawsuit should be thrown out.
But a lawyer for Tamosaitis will argue that Bechtel has misstated the facts and the case should go forward.
Both sides are scheduled to be heard Monday before Judge Craig Matheson in Benton County Superior Court to consider Bechtel's request to dismiss the case.
The suit accuses Bechtel of wrongfully interfering to get Tamosaitis removed from his job as the research and technology manger of the Hanford vitrification plant after he raised safety issues.
A second lawsuit against the Department of Energy and URS, Bechtel's primary subcontractor and Tamosaitis' employer, has been filed in U.S. District Court in Eastern Washington.
Bechtel is claiming that Tamosaitis never said, "I have a safety concern," when he raised technical issues about the operation of the $12.2 billion vitrification plant, which will treat high-level radioactive waste for disposal starting in 2019.
But in Tamosaitis' filing, attorney Jack Sheridan said he discussed concerns as early as 2009 when he sent a letter to a URS vice president identifying engineering issues and safety culture issues at Hanford.
Bechtel strongly denies that Tamosaitis was removed from the vitrification plant project for raising safety issues, but said that the whistleblower allegations have no legal bearing on its request for the case to be dismissed. The company claims Tamosaitis failed to show he was harmed.
"Tamosaitis alleges that his reputation in the community and his reputation in the industry have been severely damaged by the defendants' actions, and that he will lose income and professional opportunities for the remainder of his work life owing to the defendants' actions," said Tamosaitis' filing.
"He has spent the last 18 months working for URS, but without any meaningful job assignments," said the document. "He has no direct reports, attends no meetings and does not know who is supervisor is."
Bechtel responded: "What income? What professional opportunities?"
The company argued that Tamosaitis failed to attempt to calculate even a single dollar of economic loss and is continuing to be paid a full salary by URS since being removed from the vitrification plant project.
Bechtel also is arguing that it had the right to direct URS to remove Tamosaitis from the vitrification plant project, despite Tamosaitis' complaint that Bechtel improperly interfered with his job.
URS's subcontract with Bechtel gives Bechtel "general supervision, direction, control and approval" powers over the entire "extent and character of the work to be done," Bechtel said.
Tamosaitis argued, however, that Bechtel does not have contract authority over all vitrification plant workers, and Tamosaitis was not designated a key employee over which Bechtel could exert control.
Tamosaitis said he moved his family to the Tri-Cities in 2006 after being told by URS that he could finish his career at the vitrification plant. Bechtel countered that it had no knowledge of that conversation and it is not reflected in paperwork.
However, a Bechtel official had approved a memo announcing that Tamosaitis would remain at the vitrification plant to head an operations and technical group just two days before he was escorted from the project, according to Tamosaitis' filing.
Tamosaitis laid out a chronology of what he said happened that led to his dismissal.
As questions were raised about whether the plant would keep high-level waste adequately mixed, the deadline to close the mixing issue was extended to June 30, 2010, and Tamosaitis was told by top vitrification plant officials to "throw the kitchen sink at it," according to Tamosaitis' filing.
If mixing is inadequate, flammable gases could build up or plutonium could build up, creating the risk of a criticality.
Tamosaitis' court filing claims in Jan. 2010 that comprehensive approach changed as new Bechtel managers sought to end all design changes and to meet deadlines tied to much of a $6 million payment to Bechtel.
When mixing results were inadequate, Bechtel proposed changes to how results were calculated and to the design at the plant, which Tamosaitis said increased safety risks, according to his court filing.
Tamosaitis also agreed with a DOE scientist who raised more concerns about mixing watery solutions in tanks designed to mix thicker solutions, according to the court filing.
"In June 2010, Dr. Tamosaitis was afraid that he would be fired if he directly criticized the efforts to close (the mixing issue) without addressing significant design issues," according to Tamosaitis' documents.
Instead, he prepared a list of 50 unfinished items, including nuclear safety concerns, as other vitrification plant officials prepared shorter lists, according to his attorney.
In addition he sent an email to vitrification plant consultants, hoping that they would publicly raise objections to closing the mixing issue, said his court filing.
Bechtel said Tamosaitis was removed from the vitrification plant because his job ended, and because the email was disrespectful and upset another consultant and DOE.