ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor
A veteran cleanup manager with experience across the nuclear complex has been named to lead environmental programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Sue Stiger, a former Bechtel Corporation employee from Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, joins the laboratory as an associate director at a crucial time for its environmental efforts.
She replaces Andy Phelps, who asked to be reassigned last month, citing difficulties in cementing effective relationships with the laboratory's regulators and stakeholders.
During an interview this morning, Stiger emphasized effective performance as a first priority.
"It is really about getting things cleaned up," she said, "Getting cleanup done effectively is important to the future of the laboratory."
The laboratory is engaged in a comprehensive cleanup program under a negotiated court settlement signed in March 2005. Recent months have seen series of fines caused by deficiencies and missed milestones. Earlier this month, the New Mexico Environment Department sent a letter expressing "serious concerns and "dissatisfaction" about the pace and effectiveness of the laboratory's work in developing a groundwater monitoring network.
Stiger said she has met with Environment Secretary Ron Curry and that they discussed improving communications.
"Trust is not gained overnight," she said. "It requires a long-term commitment."
On federal budget uncertainties that threaten to undercut the clean-up schedule, she said that funding has always been a challenge and requires working with the regulators, applying ingenuity and "being smart" about the problems.
"We have to step up and perform and meet the commitments," she said.
A laboratory announcement today noted that she accelerated cleanup work at Three-Mile Island, following the worst nuclear accident in U.S. history in March 1979, among other accomplishments.
"Stiger saved taxpayers billions of dollars by safely and dramatically accelerating cleanups at Idaho National Engineering Laboratory and the Rocky Flats Site near Denver, while meeting stringent regulatory requirements," the press release stated.
She was also involved in an accelerated waste shipment project at Idaho that saved nearly two years on shipments to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in Carlsbad. Fits and starts in removing the lab's inventory of transuranic wastes has been another environmental issue at LANL.
"(Stiger) is an extraordinarily talented and accomplished professional," LANL Director Michael Anastaso said in the announcement. "She's ideally suited to help achieve our ambitious goals and complex regulatory environment."
On the question of groundwater issues at Los Alamos, Stiger said this morning that she is a civil engineer with a focus in geohydrology and comes from Idaho, a state where water is very important.
"Water is what it is all about," she said.
Newly arrived on the Hill, her second priority is to find a place to live in Los Alamos.