Dept. of Energy offers workers buyouts

RICHLAND — The Department of Energy is offering employment buyouts for 69 of the approximately 410 employees at its Hanford offices in Richland.

The move is unrelated to the federal economic stimulus money that is expected to be spent by October 1, 2011, but DOE also is starting to roll out plans to help contractor workers who will lose their jobs when the stimulus money is gone.

"Due to the short-term nature of job creation under the Recovery Act and the anticipated completion of certain cleanup activities at the site, the Department of Energy expects a decrease in the number of workers employed at Hanford for cleanup between now and 2012," said Geoff Tyree, DOE spokesman. "However, no final decision about the numbers or timing has been made."

Although information is not yet available for Hanford contractor jobs, the Savannah River, S.C., nuclear site will cut 1,400 jobs due in part to work completed with economic stimulus money, Savannah River Nuclear Solutions announced this week.

The DOE buyouts announced for Hanford are for workers employed directly by DOE at the Hanford Richland Operations Office and the Office of River Protection, which oversees environmental cleanup work at Hanford that is contracted to private companies.

The 69 eligible employees have until Monday to apply. Nationwide, the buyout covers 291 positions across the DOE complex of nuclear weapons sites.

Employees who apply and are picked will be given a $25,000 incentive and will be off the job no later than Jan. 1.

The buyouts cover the positions of office automation specialists, secretaries, program analysts, budget analysts, general engineers, physical scientists, program assistants, property management specialists, environmental engineers and paralegals.

The buyouts are intended to address closure of small environmental cleanup sites and to streamline efforts, said DOE spokeswoman Lauren Milone.

The effort also will shift some positions to lower job grades to make sure that as many Hanford DOE employees near retirement age they are passing their knowledge on to the workers who will continue to guide cleanup.

Employees eligible for retirement or early retirement will be favored for the buyouts over those who are resigning.

Nationwide, 10,500 employees have been hired for environmental cleanup work at 17 DOE sites, according to DOE. At Hanford, which received $1.96 billion in economic stimulus money, more than 3,000 jobs were created for employees of contractors or subcontractors.

"Let's make sure we take care of people after the Recovery Act and get them into other jobs," said Cynthia Anderson, DOE Recovery Act program director, at a Washington, D.C., series of meetings.

Hanford is one of five DOE environmental cleanup sites that will open a career center.

At Savannah River, reduction in jobs is planned in three phases through voluntary and involuntary layoffs, according to a memo to employees from Garry Flowers, president of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.

The first phase is a voluntary layoff program, followed by involuntary layoffs in winter 2011 and again by fall 2011. The 1,400 positions will be eliminated by October 2012.

Significant work has been accomplished at Savannah River, and the contaminated footprint of the site should be reduced by 75 percent by the end of 2012, Flowers told employees.

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