News Releases

U.S. Department of Energy has enlisted independent agency to conduct evaluation to address chemical vapor exposures


(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR) applauded the announcement from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) that the agency has requested a workplace safety and health evaluation by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency that is independent from DOE. The Senators believe this independent evaluation to address chemical vapor exposures at the Hanford tank farms is an important step toward protecting workers. The NIOSH evaluation is expected to include all workers and organizations that work within, or near, the Hanford tank farms. (DOE’s letter to NIOSH is here.)

“The federal government has a moral and legal obligation to clean up the Hanford nuclear waste site, but this work should never be done at the expense of worker safety,” said Senator Murray, Ranking Member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “Bringing in an independent team of experts to make sure workers are being protected is a strong step in the right direction. I will be closely following this process to ensure this evaluation provides the guidance necessary to keep workers safe.”

“I am pleased to see the Department of Energy will be utilizing the expertise of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to address tank vapors at Hanford. Worker safety is our number one priority, and this decision will both increase transparency and identify means to improve the Department's health and safety procedures,” said Senator Cantwell, Ranking Member of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

“Having an agency entirely separate from the Department of Energy conducting oversight into the safety of working conditions at Hanford is critical to protecting workers,” Senator Wyden said. “Meeting last month with tank farm workers at the site who were exposed to toxic chemicals made it clearer than ever to me that this independent review is needed to get to the bottom of this decades-long health threat.”