Democratic News

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, questioned nominees to the Department of Energy (DOE) on nuclear waste issues and advanced materials manufacturing at a hearing on their nominations.

In total, there are six nominees, including Dr. Cherry Ann Murray, to be Director of the Office of Science at the Department of Energy; Victoria Marie Baecher Wassmer, to be Under Secretary of Energy; Mary L. Kendall, to be Inspector General at the Department of the Interior; Dr. Suzette M. Kimball, to be Director of the United States Geological Survey; Kristen Joan Sarri, to be an Assistant Secretary of the Interior (Policy, Management and Budget) and John Francis Kotek, to be an Assistant Secretary of Energy (Nuclear Energy).

The nominations process includes the opportunity to ask questions of the nominees. Sen. Cantwell used this opportunity to garner commitments from the DOE nominees on the topics of Hanford clean-up, as well as the emerging importance of research and development on advanced materials manufacturing and recycling and advanced computing.

Read their exchanges below:

Sen. Cantwell asked Mr. Kotek about the administration’s decision earlier this year to create a separate repository for defense waste.

Mr. Kotek: “When it comes to defense waste, we have acted on the recommendation of the secretary to pursue a separate repository for defense waste. That announcement was made back in March and we are now in the process of developing a plan.”

Sen. Cantwell asked Mr. Kotek about the future of a consent-based process to site interim and permanent facilities, which is essential to getting nuclear waste out of Hanford.

Mr. Kotek: “The administration is committed to a consent-based siting process that involves working with states, tribes, local governments, in a way that leads to signing agreements with what we would call a willing and informed host community for those facilities. … It will be incumbent on us to provide information, technical resources and other assets to them as they work through answering those types of questions.”

Referring to the recommendations of the National Lab Commission, Sen. Cantwell asked Dr. Murray about the Office of Science’s contributions to the related clean-up mission. Sen. Cantwell noted that some forms of defense waste do not yet have viable disposition paths and that the Office of Science is well-equipped to help with associated technical issues. Sen. Cantwell asked if Dr. Murray agreed.

Dr. Murray: “Science really is the underpinning of every technology. And one of the things that the commission noted is that with the enormous amount of resources that we’re spending on environmental clean-up, more science is definitely necessary.”

Sen. Cantwell asked Dr. Murray about U.S. leadership on advanced materials manufacturing, recycling and the contributions of advanced computing.

Dr. Murray: “Yes, DOE has a major role in materials and the new manufacturing initiative, as well as manufacturing for recycle. … It has been very Edisonian. A company will use a material because it knows it works and it doesn’t want to bother because it takes about 7 years to move a new material into manufacture. We’re trying to shrink that down to 3 years. ... It really is a revolution.”

Sen. Cantwell: “How important do you think it is we fund these areas in R&D for DOE?”

Dr. Murray: “It’s spectacularly important.”
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