The Department of Energy named new top managers for its Hanford field offices in the Tri-Cities on Friday, picking two current employees.
Matt McCor-mick will be promoted to manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office, replacing Dave Brockman, who plans to retire from the federal government in early 2011.
But in an unexpected move, Brockman will move to the DOE Hanford Office of River Protection to replace its current manager, Shirley Olinger, until he retires.
Olinger will be filling a new position at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., as associate principal deputy for corporate operations.
DOE has not decided how to permanently fill the high-profile position of manager of the Office of River Protection. The office oversees work at Hanford's tank farms, which hold 53 million gallons of radioactive waste, and the $12.3 billion vitrification plant being built to treat the waste. The Richland Operations Office oversees all other Hanford work.
McCormick has worked at Hanford since 2000, and has been assistant manager for central Hanford since 2003.
"Matt's strength is his breadth of project management experience -- reducing risk at some of DOE's highest hazard facilities -- combined with his drive to push for better and smarter approaches to complex cleanup challenges," Ines Triay, DOE's assistant secretary for environmental management, said in a statement.
His selection from the existing management team shows the confidence DOE headquarters and those interested in Hanford have in the direction cleanup is going under the Richland Operations Office, McCormick said.
He was part of the management team that set the "2015 vision" to reduce the active footprint of Hanford from 586 square miles to 75 square miles at its center by 2015, and said he will continue to lead DOE toward that goal.
"We've got a lot of good momentum going and my focus is to keep the momentum going and get as much cleanup done as we can with the dollars we receive," he said.
He'll also continue working closely with regulators, the tribes and parties interested in Hanford cleanup to make decisions, he said. That includes reaching out to those in the Tri-Cities as decisions are made about Hanford on land where cleanup is completed, including possible development of an energy park, he said.
One of the toughest challenges the Richland Operations Office faces will be upcoming cleanup decisions to be made about central Hanford, he said. Decisions about sites along the Columbia River were more straightforward because waste has been transferred to central Hanford.
However, decisions will have to be made using the same collaborative approach in central Hanford about waste that remains there permanently in landfills or possibly in soils.
Hanford Advisory Board members had requested a Richland Operations Office leader with senior management experience and a technical background, both qualifications McCormick appears to have.
His accomplishments include leading the effort to ship weapons-grade plutonium off Hanford, leading the implementation of ground water cleanup efforts that have increased Hanford water treatment capacity and being part of the management team that led the transition from nuclear weapons production to cleanup at the Rocky Flats, Colo., nuclear site, according to DOE.
He also has worked at DOE headquarters and at the DOE Savannah River, S.C., nuclear site. He earned a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Montana State University and then entered the Navy's reactor program.
The transition to new leadership at the Hanford offices will start as McCormick, Olinger and Brockman return from vacations that had them out of town this week. It should be completed late this summer.
"(Brockman's) leadership ability, common sense approach and broad credibility in the department and the community will be critical as he works with the new Waste Treatment Plant project director to transition the project from design and construction to construction and commissioning," Triay said in a message to DOE staff.
DOE headquarters has taken a strong interest in the vit plant since Steven Chu became energy secretary and has strengthened oversight of the plant from Washington, D.C. That includes naming a new DOE project director for the plant, Dale Knutson, who reports both to headquarters and the Office of River Protection manager.
"In her new role, Shirley will be working closely with the assistant secretary and principal deputy assistant secretary to help better align headquarters and the field and ensure that the critical needs and decisions of the field are understood, supported and met," said Erik Olds, spokesman for the DOE Office of River Protection.
She will work directly with Dae Chung and Triay to identify issues that cross cut through headquarters operations, Triay told staff.
Olinger's experience as a Hanford manager and prior work at DOE headquarters in Defense Programs and Environment, Safety and Health organizations will be a tremendous asset in her new job, Triay said.
Olinger served as acting manager of the Office of River Protection for much of 2007 and was named manager near the end of the year.
Ed Revell, chairman of the Hanford Communities board, said he has been impressed with Olinger's commitment to worker safety and health. Hanford Communities was encouraged by how passionately committed she has been to environmental cleanup, said Pam Larsen, director of Hanford Communities.
-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald. com; more Hanford news at hanfordnews.com