Hanford leader Matt McCormick announces retirement

Tri-City HeraldMay 6, 2014 

Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., toured Hanford's 200 West Pump and Treat System last year with Matt McCormick, the manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office.

HERALD FILE

— Matt McCormick, manager of the Department of Energy Richland Operations Office, is retiring in mid-June, he announced Tuesday. The Richland Operations Office is in charge of all Hanford work except the management and treatment of waste in underground tanks.

“After lengthy discussions with my family, I’ve decided now’s the best time to bring my federal career to a close,” he said in a message to Hanford workers.

He will spend some time with family and then expects to do work in the private sector, he said.

Doug Shoop, deputy site manager for the Richland Operations Office, will lead work after McCormick leaves until a new manager is selected. Candidates will be solicited through a formal vacancy announcement and a new manager could be named this summer.

McCormick, who has worked for the federal government for more than three decades, came to Hanford in 2000 from DOE’s Rocky Flats, Colo., cleanup site and was named manager in 2010.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to work with a dedicated federal and contractor work force, the community, tribes and stakeholders in cleaning up Hanford lands, preserving the rich history and protecting site resources,” he said in his message to workers. The too-frequent turnover in DOE top leadership at Hanford hurts, said Gary Petersen, Tri-City Development Council vice president of Hanford programs.

But “all I can say is really good things about Matt McCormick,” Petersen said. “He’s been a superb help to the community.” TRIDEC and the community did not always get what it wanted, but under McCormick’s leadership there was always an understanding of why, he said. He credited McCormick with opening up discussions with a range of parties, including Hanford-area county governments and the tribes.

It’s a step McCormick promised to take when he took the manager position four years ago. Leadership has been a social process, McCormick said, and he’ll miss the relationships he built with people.

“It was a tough decision and I made it with mixed feelings,” he said. “But with 32 years between the Navy and DOE, it’s time to move on and see what other opportunities are out there.”

Hanford and the Tri-City area will benefit from McCormick’s hard work for years to come, said Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash.

“Matt has not only successfully carried out the cleanup mission at Richland, he has also served as a tireless advocate for Hanford,” Hastings said.

McCormick has pushed for critical work needed for a successful cleanup and worked with the Tri-City area on how cleaned-up land can play a role in the future, he said.

“I’m hopeful that Matt's successor will share his focus, leadership and dedication,” Hastings said.

Under McCormick’s leadership in the past four years, significant progress has been made to clean up Hanford land along the Columbia River. Few of the more than 180 buildings that once stood just north of Richland remain, and contaminated debris and soil have been dug up to protect the Columbia River, at the 300 Area just north of Richland and at the reactor areas along the river. Cleanup has been completed around Hanford’s F Reactor, the first cleanup finished in a reactor area.

Three new pump and treat systems have started pumping up contaminated groundwater and cleaning it to be reinjected into the ground during his term as manager. That includes Hanford’s largest and most sophisticated system, the 200 West Groundwater Treatment Facility, which is treating more than 1,500 gallons of water per minute.

Progress has been made at what’s been called Hanford’s most hazardous facility, the Plutonium Finishing Plant, to dismantle and remove highly contaminated glove boxes and other equipment. In addition, the plant’s vault buildings have been demolished.

McCormick also managed $1.6 billion of work under the Recovery Act. But his accomplishments also reach back to his earlier years at Hanford, many of them as assistant manager for central Hanford.

He was one of the key players to develop and implement Hanford’s 2015 vision. It calls for completing most cleanup along the Columbia River by 2015 and speeding up work at the Plutonium Finishing Plant and to treat contaminated groundwater. He also developed, won support for and implemented the Central Plateau Cleanup Strategy, which divides work in the central 75 square miles of Hanford into an outer area, an inner area and groundwater.

He led the effort to ship more than 4 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium off Hanford to Savannah River, S.C.

“It’s been quite a ride over the last 10 years,” he said. But the credit for work done goes to his DOE staff and “those on the front lines of cleanup, many doing hazardous work,” he said.

McCormick’s leadership over the last decade has resulted in tremendous achievements to advance cleanup, said Dave Huizenga, senior adviser for DOE’s Office of Environmental Management. “Matt has made a lasting impact,” he said.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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