This company has a $7.1B contract at Hanford. Now it has a new leader

Washington River Protection Solutions, which has a $7.1 billion Department of Energy to manage the Hanford tank farms, has named new leadership.
Washington River Protection Solutions, which has a $7.1 billion Department of Energy to manage the Hanford tank farms, has named new leadership. Courtesy Washington River Protection Solutions.

A new president has been named for Hanford’s tank farm contractor as the current leader of Washington River Protection Solutions prepares to take on a new role.

Mark Lindholm, who has been president for the tank farm contractor for three years, announced Wednesday that he will take a new position as a senior vice president at AECOM, which co-owns WRPS. He will remain in the Tri-Cities.

John Eschenberg, deputy project manager for delivery of tank waste for WRPS, will take over as president and project manager starting Oct. 8.

WRPS employs about 2,300 workers and is responsible for managing 56 million gallons of radioactive waste held in underground tanks. The waste is left from the past production of plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program.

The company holds a $7.1 billion DOE contract awarded in 2008 that will expire next month. DOE has announced plans to extend it for up to another year.

Eschenberg worked for the Department of Energy Office of River Protection at the Hanford vitrification plant from 2003 until the summer of 2009, ending his stint there as assistant manager of the DOE office.

John Eschenberg

He had been working at DOE’s Savannah River, S.C., site since leaving Hanford until joining WRPS in January.

Eschenberg has more than 25 years of industry experience, Lindholm said in a message to tank farm employees.

The incoming contractor president has experience in DOE’s three major programs — Environmental Management, Science and the National Nuclear Security Administration, Lindholm said.

Mark Lindholm

“I believe this team, along with John’s capable leadership, will continue making great progress at achieving the tank farm mission,” Lindholm told employees.

Lindholm pointed to accomplishments during his time at WRPS, including workers reaching 7.6 million hours worked with time lost to an injury.

The contractor has been nationally recognized for innovative safety tools and programs, including four consecutive Voluntary Protection Program Innovation Awards and a 2017 Campbell Institute Challenge award.

In addition, it won the 2017 Project of the Year Award from Project Management Institute for safely retrieving radioactive waste from Tank AY-102 after a leak was discovered between the tank’s double shells.

“Our time together hasn’t been without challenges,” he said.

His tenure was marked with a renewed focus on worker exposure to chemical vapors associated with tank waste in response to worker concerns. Some workers or their families say inhaling vapors has caused devastating neurological and respiratory illnesses.

“To address challenges associated with chemical vapors, we have extended stacks in the (tank) farms, tested new abatement technologies and enhanced our protective gear in the field to safeguard our employees,” he said.

Mark Whitney

The change in leadership at the tank farm contractor comes as AECOM appoints Mark Whitney as the executive vice president and general manager of AECOM’s nuclear and environment services strategic business unit.

He will have oversight of the Hanford tank farm contract and AECOM’s work at the Hanford vitrification plant, as the primary subcontract to Bechtel National at the plant.

Before joining AECOM, Whitney was a member of the U.S. Senior Executive Service with DOE, including serving as the principal deputy assistant secretary and the acting assistant secretary for DOE’s Office of Environmental Management, where he had oversight of Hanford and other weapons cleanup projects across the nation.

Whitney is replacing Todd Wright, who is retiring from the position.

Annette Cary; 509-582-1533; @HanfordNews