The budget for Hanford's $12.2 billion vitrification plant and tank farms could be the biggest challenge facing Scott Samuelson, the new Department of Energy manager of Hanford's Office of River Protection.
Samuelson starts work May 8, but was in the Tri-Cities last week preparing for his new assignment.
One of the lessons he brings from his last job is how important it is to "fight for budget all the time," he said. Maintaining the budget for the Office of River Protection is a key concern, he said.
"There are some hard commitments we have to meet," he said.
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He comes to Hanford as DOE is looking at deviating from its previous plan of requesting a flat $690 million for construction of the vitrification plant each year to move more money forward to peak construction years and reduce funding in later years. In fiscal 2013, Hanford officials would like $970 million for work at the vitrification plant
In addition, Hanford officials also would like to increase the 2013 budget for the tank farm to continue to make infrastructure improvements needed to provide services for the plant, including delivering the waste for treatment and storing the treated waste.
Samuelson's responsibility will be to ensure that those who make decisions on how much money projects receive fully understand what the consequences are if money is less than planned, he said.
"The funding profiles are large," at a time when there is pressure for austerity in federal budgets, he said. "It's going to be hard."
He has delivered another large, one-of-a-kind project: The $3.5 billion National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. It is the world's largest and most energetic laser, planned to achieve fusion ignition in the laboratory and obtain more energy from the target than is provided by the laser.
The project baseline -- its long-term cost and schedule plan -- was revamped about nine years ago. Samuelson, the federal project director, held to the new baseline, bringing the project in on the revised schedule and slightly below the budget. He was named the DOE Federal Project Director of 2009 for his success.
Outside reviews of the National Ignition Facility were increased as the baseline was revised, including a look at the project by Dale Knutson, who now serves as federal project director of the Hanford vitrification plant.
"Learning to embrace that sort of input is not easy," Samuelson said. "It feels a lot like people are getting in your business, and it's not."
He said he believes that "fresh ears and fresh eyes" brought value to the National Ignition Facility, and he will promote the same approach at his job at Hanford, he said.
He is oriented toward understanding a project mission and finding a way to get it done, he said. At Hanford, he will be looking at where Office of River Protection projects need to be in five years.
When he was named to lead the Hanford Office of River Protection earlier this month, Ines Triay, DOE's assistant secretary of energy for environmental management, praised his leadership and ability to deliver large projects, such as the National Ignition Facility. He also has extensive experience in project, financial and contract management, she said.
Despite the Hanford job being a good fit for his strengths and experience, it was a difficult decision to make the move to the Tri-Cities, he said. Among his concerns was the turnover in leadership of the Office of River Protection.
But he has a history of sticking with projects, after starting work for the federal government 27 years ago in what he thought would be a short-term job.
"I hope to be here a while," he said. "I get caught up in things. I like to get things done."