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Bechtel National plans change in vit plant leadership

RICHLAND -- Bechtel National has named a new leader for Hanford's vitrification plant less than a year after the current project director was named.

Frank Russo, now the principal associate director for operations and business at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, will come to Hanford after the holidays and take over as project manager for the Waste Treatment Plant on Jan. 18.

Ted Feigenbaum, the current project director, exceeded expectations, Bechtel National president David Walker said in a message to employees on Monday.

Feigenbaum has served as project director since March. His plans have not been announced.

Feigenbaum "set the stage for the project to move forward by substantially resolving technical concerns, managing improved cost and schedule performance, and building the confidence of the customer and stakeholders," Walker told employees.

The $12.2 billion plant is being built to turn some of Hanford's worst wastes now held in aging underground tanks into a stable glass form for disposal starting in 2019.

"DOE wants to thank Ted for his significant contribution in resolving outstanding technical concerns on the project," said DOE spokeswoman Carrie Meyer.

Earlier years of work on the vitrification plant were plagued with problems, including cost increases and schedule extensions, but this fall it reached an important milestone, passing the 50 percent mark on design and construction.

Well over half the budget remains to finish the project and prepare it to operate in the next nine years.

A list of 28 technical issues focused on how efficiently the plant would operate has been whittled down to just one issue -- making sure that waste remains mixed in tanks at the plant.

Now DOE is beginning to focus more on operation of the plant, including taking a look at where safety measures may be needlessly redundant, which could make eventual operation of the plant less efficient.

Areas are being re-evaluated where a backup system is planned but where there are other ways to ensure safety on noncritical processes.

When the massive plant was planned, it was based on the standard of treating a fictional "super tank" that was completely filled and included all the worst components of the waste that would be fed to the plant. That may have led to unnecessary conservativism in design and operation of the plant, according to DOE.

Russo "is the right person to lead this project now," Walker told employees.

"Along with his high energy, collaborative style and focus on high performance teamwork, Frank brings a unique combination of operations and business experience earned during his 37 years with Bechtel," Walker said in a letter to senior managers.

He worked for 28 years in Bechtel's Power and Oil, Gas, and Chemical business units. The first 15 years were involved with engineering, construction, start-up and commissioning of nuclear power plants across the United States.

He also was the functional manager for multiple nuclear plants in Bechtel's San Francisco and Los Angeles power organizations.

Before joining the Livermore national lab when Bechtel won the operations contract there in 2007, Russo was general manager of the Idaho Completion Projection.

He was key to Bechtel's acquisition of the Advanced Mixed Waste Treatment Plant project in Idaho, Walker said. His leadership turned it from a project that was behind schedule to one of DOE's most successful, Walker said.

"I have known and worked with Frank for many years, on many projects, and have the highest confidence in him and his abilities," Walker told employees.

* Annette Cary: 509-582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.

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