Michael Johnson has been named president and project manager for Washington River Protection Solutions, the Hanford tank farm contractor.
He has been serving as acting president since Chuck Spencer retired from WRPS in January and took a job as chief operating officer for Babcock & Wilcox Technical Services Group in Charlotte, N.C.
Johnson came to Hanford in May as project operations manager for WRPS, moving from his position as executive director of waste and effluent disposition at the Sellafield Facility nuclear site in the United Kingdom, where he led a work force of 2,100 people.
As head of the Hanford tank farms, he plans to build on the strong foundation Spencer left and improve efficiency, he said.
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"In this tough economy, we owe to the taxpayers value for their money," he said.
The Hanford tank farms hold 56 million gallons of radioactive waste in 170 underground tanks. The waste is left from chemical processing of irradiated fuel to remove plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.
Work is under way to empty waste from leak-prone single-shell tanks to newer double shell tanks, with a legal requirement to have all 16 tanks in the group called C Tank Farm emptied to regulatory standards by 2014.
He is working to get tanks emptied more quickly, in part by having work done in many tanks at once and setting up a scheduling technique to gain efficiency, he said. Waste retrieval or preparation for retrieval is under way on 10 tanks now of the total 142 single shell tanks that still contain waste.
Washington River Protection Solutions has developed new technologies to empty the enclosed, underground tanks of high-level radioactive waste, including the Mobile Arm Retrieval System, or MARS, and is not done looking for faster and less expensive ways to empty tanks, he said.
"Until they are all emptied, there are always going to be areas to improve," he said.
A team from the Savannah River nuclear site in South Carolina, where Johnson used to work, is consulting on additional ideas for Hanford tanks as Washington River Protection Solutions continues to look for new technologies or different ways to apply technologies.
Hanford is the fourth nuclear site where Johnson has worked with tank farms, including Sellafield, Savannah River and the Idaho Cleanup Project.
But Hanford's tank waste has a variety of forms from the variety of different chemical processes used at the nuclear reservation that makes its tanks a challenge, Johnson said.
In addition, Idaho and Savannah River had more infrastructure, such as power, transfer piping and ventilation systems, already in place to support emptying tanks.
He has been pleased with the quality of workers at Hanford and will be encouraging the 1,380 tank farm workers to learn new skills to continue their professional development, he said.
Johnson has 40 years of experience in the nuclear industry, including nuclear waste management, nuclear facility start-up operations, radiological control operations, infrastructure management, and program and project management. In addition to sites with tank farms, he also worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
He is a 21-year veteran of the Navy, and his last Naval assignment was commanding officer of the attack submarine USS Sturgeon.
He has a mathematics degree from Millsaps College in Jackson, Miss., and graduated from the Navy's Nuclear Power Training Program.
In the Tri-Cities, he serves on boards of the United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties, Columbia Basin College Foundation and the Tri-City Development Council.
Johnson is married to Carol Johnson, the president of Washington Closure Hanford, the contractor responsible for environmental cleanup of Hanford along the Columbia River.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; firstname.lastname@example.org; more Hanford news at hanfordnews.com