A General Accounting Office report yesterday disputed allegations by a controversial researcher that he was fired from a $6 million federal study because he refused to cover up findings of radiation hazards to workers.
The GAO report said it found that the Atomic Energy Commission removed Dr. Thomas Mancuso, a University of Pittsburgh radiation researcher, from the federal study because of poor project management.
The report also questioned the wisdom of the Department of Energy, which succeeded AEC, for turning over the Mancuso study to a private research laboratory with strong ties to the nuclear agency.
The study was undertaken by the GAO last August after Mancuso testified to the House subcommittee on health and environment that he was dropped by the AEC from the research project in 1977 because he would not make public preliminary findings from the study. The AEC had sought to refute another study that alleged that low-level radiation is dangerous to workers. Mancuso's earliest findings, which he called inconclusive, showed no radiation danger in the workers.
In 1976 Mancuso published a partial summary of his study, which noted a rise in certain types of cancer among workers exposed to low-level radiation at the government's nuclear plant in Handford, Wash.
Mancuso later charged that the contractors chosen by DOE to complete his study after he was fired were biased against his preliminary findings of a potential danger in low-level radiation.
Low-level radiation has become a controversial subject recently with allegations by some scientists that millions of people may have received dangerous radiation doses while on the job. A special interagency panel appointed by President Carter last year is looking into the allegations.
In its report yesterday, the GAO said it found no documentation to indicate that federal nuclear officials sought to control Mancuso's study to offset findings of a danger from lowlevel radiation.
The GAO noted, however, that federal officials as far back as 1972 had shown dissatisfaction with Mancuso's work and had considered dropping him from the study.
The report said the contractors eventually assigned to the study received between 70 and 80 percent of their operating funds from the government's nuclear agency. But it said the contractors were qualified to handle the work.
DOE documents released by Mancuso this week indicate that the AEC had anticipated negative findings in the study. According to the documents, the officials were dismayed when Mancuso refused to refute the 1974 study showing radiation danger to the Hanford workers. The officials were even more upset when Mancuso began to report similar findings a year later, and the AEC then moved to terminate his research contract.
No mention was made by the GAO in its report of references in the DOE documents released this week indicating that one of the original purposes of the Mancuso study was to rebut workers' claims for compensation from radiation damage suffered at government facilities.