Dirk

Mr. Dunning provides expert technical reviews of Hanford cleanup proposals and activities.  His work focuses on projects managed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of River Protection and the Richland Operations Office, including allaspects of tank waste treatment and operations, Waste Treatment Plant design, construction and operations, closure of operations and storage facilities, cleanup of burial grounds and waste sites, and cleanup along the Columbia River.

Mr. Dunning currently chairs the Tank Waste Committee of the Hanford Advisory Board.  He provides technical support to the Oregon Hanford Cleanup Board and the Hanford Advisory Board.  He works closely with U.S. Department of Energy, DOE contractors, Hanford regulators, Tribes, scientists, engineers, public interest groups, and citizens.  Mr. Dunning previously represented Oregon on the Hanford Natural Resources Trustee Council and participated with the Washington Nuclear Waste Advisory Council, and the Tank Waste Task Force (both predecessors to the Hanford Advisory Board).

Mr. Dunning graduated from Oregon State University with a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Chemical Engineering and is a registered Professional Chemical Engineer in the State of Oregon.  He was a licensed Nuclear Power Engineer for Westinghouse and trained sailors to operate nuclear submarines.  He later trained as an Environmental Engineer, Systems Engineer, Control Systems Engineer, Forensics Engineer, and was Manager of Chemical Operations for Fairchild Semiconductor.  His background includes nuclear reactor operations, chemical and nuclear emergency response, design of semiconductor fabrication facilities, high purity chemical process systems, industrial and sewage waste treatment plants, high purity water systems, toxic gas and chemical control systems, secondary containment systems, a wide variety of process and abatement systems, and building, fire, plumbing, mechanical and seismic specialty codes.  He joined the Oregon Department of Energy in 1993.

What is the story of how you got involved in Hanford?

My involvement with Hanford began when I attended an evening presentation by Mr. Ralph Patt about the Kyshtym and Tomsk releases in the former Soviet Union at Chelyabinsk-65. It was a fascinating presentation. Ralph was then the hydrogeologist (water guy) on permanent loan to the Oregon Department of Energy from the Oregon Water Resources Department to do evaluations of cleanup at Hanford. He was the lone technical staff for the Oregon Department of Energy working on Hanford cleanup. Ralph recently passed away after a long career working on Hanford cleanup. In talking after the meeting, Ralph told me about a job opening at ODOE. I enquired about it, applied and got the job.

What is most compelling to you about Hanford?

Hanford is a tragedy that need never have happened. The compelling reasons for the work at Hanford led the Federal government to do the work in secret. They accorded almost no priority to environmental protection, viewing the land as an expendable resource, and little priority to protection of the public other than from acute hazards. The people involved at the time represented a narrow segment of the populations’ views on these matters. This was not unusual then, most of industry operated similarly. Had the priorities been different we would not be facing the dauntingly complex challenges and massive costs for cleanup we now deal with. Hanford cleanup is an extremely complex mix of technical, regulatory, financial and policy issues. It offers all sorts of opportunities to explore the leading edge of environmental cleanup in all four areas. It forces us to look at policy implications that extend through hundreds of millennia. It necessitates a deep understanding of technical issues and the environment. And it makes us critically look at how we apply and adapt regulations and regulatory actions to accomplish the cleanup. Most of all, it calls us to understand deeply what the needs and desires are of the many people impacted by cleanup both now and far into the future, to protect all of them, and to learn from the past about how we collectively might better set policies today.

What specific issues are you most interested in?

That is a long list that changes constantly. At the moment, that includes such diverse things as bleeding edge actinide chemistry; movement of water and waste through complex hydrogeologic environments; glass and other waste form durability for geologic time periods; a variety of fascinating chemical issues including technetium chemistry; dimensionless analysis and modeling of non-newtonian fluids; soil ecology and soil processes (e.g. turnover of soil by insects, animals and plants); paleogeology and paleoclimatology particularly as it relates to Hanford and especially the great Bretz floods, volcanism, Cascadia earthquakes and other episodic catastrophes; technical and policy issues related to emergency preparedness and public protection; global and local climate change; model development and applications – especially as it relates to sensitivity, variability, and uncertainty; and the very poor state of understanding of these in all current models with an eye to how they might be adapted to do this better.


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