PHOENIX – While its mission is rooted in the environmental legacy of the past, EM is focused on possibilities for a future that holds great promise for its union workforce, industry leaders, tribal nations and communities surrounding cleanup sites, and partners around the globe, EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White told an audience at the 2023 Waste Management Symposia on Monday.
“By partnering with local communities, prioritizing stakeholder engagement and implementing environmental justice initiatives, EM is helping to foster successful visions for the future,” he said during his address at the annual conference.
When EM is aligned with stakeholders and regulators on such visions, the cleanup program can accomplish the most.
“The tremendously successful tank waste mission at the Savannah River Site is testament to that level of alignment,” White said. “It illustrates what’s possible when we are unified in driving toward shared goals. It’s an approach that translates to each and every one of our EM sites as we pave paths to a clean, safe and vibrant future.”
In a sweeping address, White spoke about EM accomplishments last year that reduce risk and protect the environment, the program’s clean energy advancements, sustainable approaches to cleanup, contributions to national security priorities, support to tribal and community efforts to build strong economies, technology development, growing international collaborations and efforts to build a next-generation workforce.
EM hit its mark with its annual priorities scorecard last year. White highlighted some of those achievements by EM’s dedicated teams on the ground that have delivered on reducing risks and protecting the environment, including:
- Cocooning the seventh reactor along the Columbia River at the Hanford Site, leaving one more to go;
- Beating waste shipment goals at the Los Alamos National Laboratory by over 70%;
- Completing buried waste remediation important to Idaho and the health of the state’s Snake River Aquifer; and
- Beginning demolition of the Main Plant Process Building at the West Valley Demonstration Project.
Looking to the next stage of cleanup activities across the complex, White said the Waste Isolation Pilot Project is central to EM’s future. Work continues on ventilation upgrades at the nation’s only repository for the disposal of transuranic waste, with commissioning of its new ventilation system slated to begin this year.
EM’s tank waste mission is also entering a new stage as the cleanup program continues the shift from construction of capabilities to treatment operations.
"At Savannah River, we are treating more tank waste than ever before," White said. "Over 5 million gallons of salt waste has gone through the site’s Salt Waste Processing Facility in just over two years of operations."
White pointed to a network of national laboratories that has developed a research and development roadmap for accelerating the Hanford Site's tank waste mission.
"The roadmap will be used to continually identify opportunities to deploy technologies that could help improve efficiency along with cost savings and schedule acceleration for Hanford’s tank waste mission," White said.
White also focused on EM's unique responsibility to carry out its mission in a manner that helps cut pollution and combat climate change, and contributes to a clean energy future.
"Last year, EM met a priority of removing 1 million pounds of an ozone-depleting chemical from the Paducah Site," he said. "This represented a benefit to the environment comparable to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by taking about 10,000 vehicles off the road in a year."
EM is a place where you can not only protect the environment but also be part of the clean energy revolution.
“We’re hiring,” White said, adding that EM is increasing efforts to foster, build and maintain a next-generation workforce with job opportunities that can build strong futures.
“To those of you still in school or just starting out, if you are interested in being part of the world’s largest environmental cleanup effort or in being part of the clean energy revolution, EM is a place where you can do that,” he said.
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