"In November 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy asked contract employees at the Hanford plutonium processing plant in Washington state to take an unusual oath.
The DOE wanted them to sign nondisclosure agreements that prevented them from reporting wrongdoing at the nation’s most contaminated nuclear facility without getting approval from an agency supervisor. The agreements also barred them from using any information for financial gain, a possible violation of federal whistleblower laws, which allow employees to collect reward money for reporting wrongdoing.
Donna Busche reluctantly signed the agreement.
'It was a gag order,' said Busche, 51, who served as the manager of environmental and nuclear safety at the Hanford waste treatment facility for a federal contractor until she was fired in February after raising safety concerns. 'The message was pretty clear: ‘Don’t say anything to anyone, or else.’'"