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DOE names new acting head of Hanford, other nuclear cleanup projects

UPDATED: Wed., June 28, 2017

In this photo taken July 11, 2016, a safety sign is shown on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
In this photo taken July 11, 2016, a safety sign is shown on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland, Wash. (Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)
By Annette Cary Tri-City Herald

An acting leader for the Department of Energy’s nationwide nuclear environmental cleanup program, including the Hanford nuclear reservation, was named on Tuesday.

James Owendoff, who has worked for the DOE Office of Environmental Management for most of the last two decades, will serve as acting assistant secretary for environmental management.

He replaces Sue Cange, who has served as the acting leader of the Office of Environmental Management.

Owendoff will serve until President Donald Trump submits a nominee and the Senate confirms a new assistant secretary for environmental management.

As one of Owendoff’s first actions, he plans to initiate a full review of environmental cleanup programs to find ways to improve the effectiveness of the programs, according to a DOE announcement.

“Our review will help to focus the department’s cleanup efforts by emphasizing more timely decisions on some of our more complex cleanup challenges,” Owendoff said.

“This will go a long way toward putting the program on the path to safely and successfully achieving our cleanup mission sooner and at less cost to taxpayers.”

The Energy Communities Alliance said that the transition in DOE Office of Environmental Management leadership appeared to be in the works for several weeks as DOE waits for the White House to nominate a leader for the office. Additional management changes for the office may be announced in the coming days.

Owendoff also has been named the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Office of Environmental Management, serving as the leader of the office at the same time.

Owendoff has served as a senior adviser to the assistant secretary in the Office of Environmental Management since January 2010.

He served in various capacities for the office from September 1995 to November 2003 and again from November 2005 to January 2010, including acting assistant secretary, principal deputy assistant secretary, chief operations officer, deputy assistant secretary for environmental restoration and deputy assistant secretary for science and technology.

He joined the Department of Energy after retiring from active duty in the Air Force. He holds a master’s of engineering degree in mechanical engineering.

Cange was manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management, responsible for environmental cleanup at DOE’s Tennessee cleanup site, before taking a DOE headquarters position in December 2016.

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