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News / Northwest

New leader named for Hanford nuclear waste project

He’ll oversee work to treat radioactive debris for disposal

By Annette Cary, Tri-City Herald
Published: May 26, 2023, 3:41pm

KENNEWICK — A 40-year Bechtel veteran has been named to lead work at the Hanford site vitrification plant as it prepares to start treating radioactive waste for disposal.

Brian Hartman succeeds Valerie McCain, the former project director at the nuclear reservation’s Waste Treatment Plant for Department of Energy contractor Bechtel National. She led Bechtel’s work at the vitrification plant from 2018 until her sudden death two months ago.

“I look forward to building on the WTP team’s quality culture and collaborative approach to how we do work,” Hartman said. “We have an important mission to protect the environment and the community.”

Hartman said he was eager to work with all those with an interest in getting radioactive waste treated for disposal, including the Tri-Cities community, the Washington state Department of Ecology, Hanford’s other contractors and the Department of Energy.

“Brian is an exceptional leader with a proven talent for building strong partnerships with customers and creating high performance teams,” said John Howanitz, president of Bechtel’s nuclear, security and environmental business.

He will lead final commissioning of the vitrification plant’s Low Level Waste Facility, which will start glassifying the least radioactive waste held in Hanford’s underground tanks and allow its permanent disposal.

Hartman also will oversee the team doing the engineering, design and purchasing for the vitrification plant’s High Level Waste Facility.

DOE is required by the federal court to start treating the radioactive waste stored in Hanford’s underground tanks by 2033.

The Hanford nuclear reservation adjacent to Richland produced two-thirds of the plutonium for the nation’s nuclear weapons program from World War II through the Cold War.

Chemically separating plutonium from uranium irradiated in Hanford reactors left 56 million gallons of radioactive and hazardous chemical waste store in underground tanks, some of it prone to leaking.

Hartman has experience in project management, engineering and commissioning on thermal power plants and nuclear projects.

“His deep experience on complex projects and across all aspects of project management and execution, from development to startup and commissioning, makes him an ideal choice to lead the WTP project forward, Howanitz said.