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DU Whistleblower wins settlement

Clint Jensen, an DU worker at the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEEL), took his employer, Bechtel, to court for retaliating against him after he raised concerns about dangerous working conditions and sick co-workers suffering Gulf War Syndrome-like symptoms. The parties came to an agreement to end the lawsuit, midway through, in Jensen's favour.

Jensen worked as a Manufacturing Operator at INEEL Specific Manufacturing Capability (SMC), a classified program which fabricates depleted uranium for lining in the US Army's Abrams battle tanks. Bechtel failed to implement many basic safety and industrial hygiene precautions for employees working around DU. Mr. Jensen's job included incinerating uranium chips and cutting and boring sheets of uranium metal. The incinerator was home-made and every night he had to mop around the oven to remove a black film encircling the oven caused by the leakage during burns.

Mr. Jensen began asking questions of his employer about the premature death of two of his co-workers and why others had left the workplace with symptoms similar to his. He raised concerns that he was exposed to DU and other substances at work that may have caused his own Gulf War Syndrome-like symptoms. He suggested that the Industrial Hygiene program was deficient, that he had been ordered to burn substances other than DU in the oxidation oven _ in violation of the oven's permit, and that his uranium exposure levels soared after he looked down to find himself standing in DU-laden water. He asked the INEEL's medical staff to get to the root of the problem.

Rather than investigating these concerns or compensating him for his illness, Bechtel attempted to silence him and keep him out of the workplace by referring him to psychiatrists numerous times; increasing his security clearance _ effectively gagging him from speaking with his personal physicians about his occupational health concerns; refusing to let him speak with a Department of Energy (DOE) official about his concerns; accusing him of abusing his short term disability and removing 270 hours of personal leave time from him; placing excessive restrictions upon him at times and denying him use of a respirator.

Since Mr. Jensen raised his concerns, DOE has conducted an extensive review of the SMC facility and found numerous significant violations. Because of Mr. Jensen's concerns, the oxidation oven was dismantled, and new safety procedures and processes have been implemented.

Tom Carpenter, with the Government Accountability Project which represented Mr. Jensen, stated, "Clint performed a valuable public service by raising important safety and health concerns which resulted in significant improvements in operations at the INEEL site. We are all very glad to put this matter behind us, and for Clint to be able to get on with his life."

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Page last updated: January 28, 2003