RICHLAND, Wash. – The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB) recently posthumously awarded its Victor Stello Jr. Award for Safety Leadership to former EM employee Robert Nelson, the first recipient of the award since 2010.
Nelson died in December. His contributions to promoting safety management throughout the DOE complex have left a legacy of influence that will be remembered by many. According to his colleagues, friends, family and the DNFSB, Nelson was a brilliant and talented man that cared about his country and safety, which made him the perfect recipient for the award.
“Dr. Robert Nelson was dedicated to improving health and safety across Department of Energy complexes,” said Brenda L. Hawks, EM associate deputy assistant secretary for field operations oversight and chief of nuclear safety. “His technical leadership in safety and hazard-analysis activities initiated many actions to improve safety performance and standards used by the department.”
DNFSB Vice Chairman Thomas A. Summers presented the award to Nelson’s wife, Lois, and sons, Randy and Phillip.
Summers spent some time chatting with Nelson’s family and learning about his impressive career, which began in the Air Force in 1969. Nelson’s entire Air Force career was in nuclear safety, weapons safety and cruise missile development. Nelson also facilitated the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission's certification of the nuclear reactor at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento, California. One of Nelson’s former colleagues noted Nelson’s Bachelor of Science, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy, all from the Department of Radiation Biophysics at Kentucky University — a scholarly accomplishment no longer available.
When Nelson took a job with EM at Hanford in 1998, he traveled often for the position, but the Tri-Cities, Washington area remained the family’s home. Lois Nelson shared that he was a “safety man on and off the field.” For example, if Nelson saw someone holding a knife incorrectly, he would be sure to let the person know, because “his job was safety,” she said.
The Stello award was established to be given to a DOE employee who demonstrates exemplary leadership in promoting safety management in the DOE defense nuclear complex, according to the DNFSB website. The award honors Victor Stello Jr., DOE principal deputy assistant secretary for safety and quality, Office of Defense Programs, in recognition of his outstanding service, exemplary performance and admirable leadership in promoting public health and safety in U.S. atomic energy defense activities.
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