Ines Triay, the Department of Energy's top environmental cleanup official, is stepping down, Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced Friday.
In addition, Chu plans a reorganization that will move the DOE Office of Environmental Management, which Triay leads, under the direction of the undersecretary for nuclear security, Thomas D'Agostino.
Triay, widely considered an advocate of a strong Hanford environmental cleanup program and a friend to the Tri-Cities, has served as assistant secretary of environmental management for 2 1/2 years.
Over the Fourth of July weekend, she told Chu that she would be stepping down as assistant secretary because of her father's poor health, Chu said in a message to staff Friday. She will continue to work for DOE, however.
"We have really enjoyed working with Ines over the last 2 1/2 years," said Gary Petersen, vice president of Hanford programs for the Tri-City Development Council. "She has made some extremely positive changes to the department and benefited cleanup immensely."
Triay was responsible for kick-starting the plan for some land at Hanford and other DOE sites to be turned into clean energy parks as environmental cleanup is completed, Petersen said. It's a plan that TRIDEC is pursuing for some Hanford land already designated for industrial use to take advantage of Tri-City area strengths and create jobs to replace those lost as environmental cleanup work is gradually completed.
She also led efforts to accelerate cleanup with economic stimulus money, including $1.96 billion that will be spent at Hanford by fall.
"Dr. Triay's vision led her team to hit the ground running, quickly launching shovel-ready cleanup projects at all major (environmental management) facilities while simultaneously meeting aggressive hiring and training targets and schedules," Chu said in his message.
The Recovery Act work across the DOE complex is being completed under budget, which will allow savings to be used for additional cleanup in fiscal 2012, he said.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said in a statement that she appreciated Triay's leadership and hard work and commended her "for the huge gains that have been made in cleaning up our nation's nuclear waste complex, including at the Hanford site."
"Her determination and personal commitment to cleanup have played a key role in the progress that has been made at Hanford and at (environmental management) sites across the nation," Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., said in a statement.
However, Washington's congressional delegation was less certain about the reorganization announcement.
"Regarding DOE's sudden restructuring announcement, I believe more information must be made available by the department and that any major changes should go through an open and transparent public process," Hastings said.
Murray said she would look forward to learning more details about how the proposed reorganization would ensure that DOE meets its legal obligations to clean up Hanford and other nuclear defense sites.
"This reorganization will capitalize on the expertise that exists throughout the department on project management, nuclear materials and waste, and nuclear safety and security," Chu said in his message to staff.
In addition to the Office of Environmental Management, DOE's Office of Legacy Management and the Office of the Chief of Nuclear Safety also will report directly to D'Agostino under the reorganization.
D'Agostino also leads the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, which was formed within DOE by Congress in 2000 for the management and security of the nation's nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation and naval reactor programs.
The change will take place in the coming weeks, Chu said in an announcement.
"This reorganization is part of our ongoing efforts to improve project management within the department to ensure we are successfully delivering mission-critical projects for the American taxpayers," Chu said.
The change will allow knowledge and skill to be shared among offices dealing with nuclear materials and also assure that DOE is applying lessons learned across all of our projects, he said.
It also may promote additional cooperation between DOE national laboratories and environmental management sites, he said. As NNSA administrator, D'Agostino oversees Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories.
Hanford workers could learn more about the reorganization Monday, when Daniel Poneman, the deputy energy secretary, visits Hanford. DOE officials said earlier he was visiting to introduce Scott Samuelson, the new manager of the DOE Hanford Office of River Protection, and to discuss the importance of nuclear safety.
DOE has released no information about plans to replace Triay as assistant secretary, although the reorganization still includes plans to have an official in her position.
Triay came to the job familiar with Hanford, and by extension the Tri-Cities, after working for DOE environmental management programs for 24 years before being appointed assistant secretary.
"She was always accessible to us in the community," Petersen said.
She was born in Cuba, and her parents fled to the United States when she was 3. She spoke at the Washington State University Tri-Cities graduation a year ago, saying she was fortunate to have had teachers who encouraged a Hispanic girl to study math and science.
She previously served as the chief operating officer for DOE's Office of Environmental Management, the top career position there. She will be returning to the DOE career executive service.
"We are grateful for her continued service," Chu said.
* More Hanford news at hanfordnews.com.