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An appeals court reinstated a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation who claims he was fired by a subcontractor after raising safety issues at the nation's most polluted nuclear weapons production site.

In its ruling Friday, the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals also said plaintiff Walt Tamosaitis is entitled to a jury trial.

The appeals court ruled that a lower court wrongly dismissed the case against the primary subcontractor on construction of a Hanford vitrification plant intended to deal with the most dangerous wastes, the Tri-City Herald reported.

"We are anxious to get into court as soon as we can," Tamosaitis' attorney, Jack Sheridan said.

Hanford, located near Richland, Washington, for decades made plutonium for nuclear weapons and now contains the nation's largest collection of radioactive wastes.

The lawsuit will continue with only URS Energy and Construction as a defendant. The 9th Circuit ruled that it had been appropriate to dismiss the U.S. Department of Energy from the lawsuit.

It's the first time a court of appeals has confirmed that whistleblowers are entitled to a jury trial, Sheridan said.

"It puts them on equal footing with other victims of discrimination," he said.

Tamosaitis contends the subcontractor removed him as the research and technology manager of the unfinished $12.2 billion vitrification plant project after he said more time was needed to resolve complex technical issues. Construction on the plant has since stopped because of technical and safety issues.


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