A former employee of the company that built the exploratory tunnel at Yucca Mountain claimed she was ordered to falsify her reports on toxic dust levels in the tunnel where workers say they contracted lung diseases.
Judy Kallas, who was employed as an industrial hygienist with Kiewit Construction, made the accusation in October 2002 in an unrelated gender discrimination case against Bechtel Nevada, the main government contractor at the Nevada Test Site.
In the deposition, Kallas said a Kiewit supervisor told her in 1996 to alter her field notes to show that silica dust levels were less than they were in the five-mile, 25-foot diameter tunnel being built in Yucca Mountain.
"Yeah, I did complain. Mostly not because the silica dust was so thick, it's because he was making me change my field notes that showed that they should have been wearing respirators when they weren't," Kallas said in the deposition obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
Yucca Mountain is the volcanic-rock ridge, 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas, where the government plans to entomb 77,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel and highly radioactive waste.
The testimony adds to a list of allegations made by former tunnel workers about potentially dangerous health and safety practices at the Yucca Mountain project.
Workers blame chronic lung ailments on inhaling dust laden with silica including a cancer-causing fibrous mineral, erionite, and a sister mineral, mordenite, during the tunnel excavation from 1994 to 1997.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy, the agency in charge of the project, declined to comment.
Kallas was fired on Aug. 9, 1996, after having worked about four months for Kiewit at Yucca Mountain. A copy of her employee profile states she was fired for "disregard of authority and directions of supervisor."
Kallas contends she was fired after complaining that her superiors ordered changes to her reports about worker health and safety concerns.
"Whenever we would have field notes when we were in the tunnel and we would take notes about different things, the levels of silica and stuff, we would bring our field notes back in," Kallas said in her deposition.
"And you don't change your field notes. Whatever you get on your samples is what it is. He would make me change my field notes," she said, referring to supervisor Barry C. McNeill.
Asked about Kallas' claims that he ordered her to change her field notes about the dust levels in the tunnel, McNeill said, "I have no knowledge of that."