EM Senior Advisor William “Ike” White highlighted recent cleanup progress and shared EM’s vision for the decades to come during his address kicking off the 2023 National Cleanup Workshop, which drew a record audience.
“While our mission is rooted in the environmental legacy of the past, we are also focused on possibilities for the future,” White said. “We are looking to the future of EM and our communities.”
EM’s successes this year include a full suite of tank waste treatment capabilities in place at the Savannah River Site, where more tank waste is being treated than ever before; the successful launch of Integrated Waste Treatment Unit operations at the Idaho National Laboratory Site; progress toward immobilizing tank waste in glass at the Hanford Site; and demolition of four buildings at the Nevada National Security Sites that supported development and testing of nuclear rocket engines during the Cold War.
“Not only was this work completed safely, it was done ahead of schedule. That’s always a message that I like to deliver,” White said about the recent EM Nevada Program achievement, which met an EM 2023 priority ahead of schedule. “Some of the leaders who helped make this happen are here with us today. I want to say a special congratulations to the entire Nevada team for their help to make this happen.”
White took a cumulative look at EM’s cleanup progress across the DOE complex, noting that EM began with 107 sites and has 15 left to go where cleanup remains.
“The work that remains, though, is among our toughest work,” he said.
With those challenges in mind, White stressed the importance of building the next-generation workforce for EM. Early in the workshop, a special session aimed to help early career professionals learn more about EM and how to grow and succeed in the cleanup program.
“All of us are facing a hiring and labor environment unlike any we have seen before," White said. "We will need thousands of new workers over the next five years to achieve our cleanup goals."
The head of EM also discussed the future of EM sites and drew attention to the Department’s recent launch of the Cleanup to Clean Energy initiative, an effort to repurpose parts of DOE-owned lands into sites of clean-energy generation.
“We have a unique opportunity to lead by example to meet the challenges of today, including climate change, clean-energy production and energy resiliency,” White said. “We are focused not only on getting the job done, but conducting cleanup in a sustainable manner that benefits local communities, tribal nations and efforts around the globe to solve the climate crisis.”
In closing, White shared his appreciation for the audience at the workshop, the event’s largest to date. He emphasized that it’s that level of participation that will power EM through the decade to come.
"It is my hope that all of you come away this week with a better sense of the challenges we are facing, the opportunities we have to address them, and the important role that each of you plays in the success of our shared mission," White said.
-Contributor: Lee Tucker
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