PNNL Teams win DOE Secretary's Honor Award

Source:  PNNL Press Release, October 27, 2011.

Three teams of PNNL researchers received Honor Awards from Energy Secretary Steven Chu today for their work following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the tsunami that damaged the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant in Japan, and for their efforts to transport and secure tons of spent nuclear fuel from a nuclear power plant in Kazakhstan. Presented at DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Honor Awards represent the highest level of non-monetary recognition given to DOE federal and contractor employees.

“The employees recognized today have gone above and beyond the call of duty, demonstrating an exceptional commitment to public service,” said Secretary Chu. “Their dedication, knowledge and skills have served to strengthen our nation’s economic and energy security and the work of the Energy Department.”

During the summer of 2010 when the Deepwater Horizon oil spill was occurring in the Gulf of Mexico, researchers from PNNL collaborated with seven other national laboratories to estimate the rate of oil flowing into the Gulf. Members of the PNNL team on the Flow Rate Technical Group being recognized with the award include:  Phil Gauglitz, Lenna Mahoney, James Fort, Judith Bamberger, Jeremy Blanchard, Jagan Bontha, Carl Enderlin, Yasuo Onishi, David Pfund, David Rector, Mark Stewart, Beric Wells, Thomas Yokuda and former employee Perry Meyer. Additional PNNL staff supported this urgent effort, including: Bill Dey, Bill Kuhn, Chrissy Charron and Dana Ruane.

In the wake of a devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan in March 2011, researchers from PNNL, other national laboratories, and domestic and foreign government agencies provided technical analysis and advice to U.S. and Japanese government officials to support immediate decision-making and longer term stabilization planning efforts. Recipients of the award, who were deployed in Tokyo and Washington, D.C., during the crisis, were supported by several technical staff at the Laboratory.  Members of the PNNL team being acknowledged with the award include: Yasuo Onishi, chief scientist, and Jim Buelt, Nuclear Energy Sector Manager.  Many additional PNNL staff also contributed to the technical analysis activities during the crisis, including: Bruce Reid, Burt Johnson, Ted Bowyer, Jeff Miller, Reid Peterson, Tom Michener, Wayne Johnson, Gary Sevigny, Ron Omberg, Diana Love, Loni Peurrung, Don Draper, Garrett Brown, Bruce Napier, Dawn Wellman, Jon Schwantes, Andy Prichard, Judah Friese, Jim Hayes, Larry Greenwood, Harry Miley and Carl Pitts.

Additionally, Paul Higgins, program manager, international technology assessments, was presented with a separate Certificate of Extraordinary Service for his superior support to the federal government during the Fukushima disaster.

Since the end of the Cold War, countries such as Kazakhstan have been tasked with disposing of spent nuclear fuel from their nuclear facilities. Between 1998 and 2010, researchers from PNNL and other national laboratories teamed to help Kazakhstan transport and secure spent fuel containing 10 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and three metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium from a fast breeder reactor in Aktau, Kazakhstan — enough spent fuel for 775 nuclear weapons. The fuel was transported approximately 3,000 km via rail and road to a long-term storage facility; it was the largest spent fuel shipment in the history of the National Nuclear Security Administration. Michael Macourek, project integration manager, now deceased, was presented the award posthumously. Jeff Andrie, lead project controls engineer, and Pete Pelto, retired PNNL senior equipment designer, also were primary contributors to this work.