Just six weeks into her new job, the new chief of Savannah River Site’s management and operations contractor has her eye on the site’s half-century-old infrastructure and its aging workforce.
Carol Johnson, a 30-year veteran of the nuclear and environmental management industry, is president and CEO of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions.
She most recently served as president and project manager of Washington Closure Hanford, where she led a $2.4 billion environmental cleanup. At SRNS, she replaced CEO Dwayne Wilson, who announced in May that he was leaving for another position with Fluor Corp., a global engineering and construction firm that is one of the three companies that makes up SRNS.
Securing federal funding to update infrastructure, including electrical distributions and fire protection systems, is crucial for stability and safety at SRS, Johnson said.
She said she will aggressively push the Department of Energy for funding to support missions at SRS.
“We are dealing with infrastructure on the site that is 50-plus years old in some cases,” she said.
Maintaining workforce numbers, which have been cut in recent years, also ensures the site operates safely and efficiently, Johnson said. Workforce cuts were too deep, she said.
In coming years, Johnson intends to focus on recruiting and hiring new workers. A slight increase in the workforce population is possible in fiscal year 2015, she said.
“We have an average age on the site of 54. Over half of the population will be eligible for retirement in three years,” she said. “I think we are behind the curve in building up a pipeline of qualified people.”
Another of Johnson’s priorities is advancing existing missions of the site while preparing for potential new missions. The Savannah River National Laboratory plays a key role in solving the nation’s environmental cleanup problems, she said.
“We are the only site in the country that has the capability of dispositioning plutonium to the scale that we can do it here,” she said. “It’s a great cause for the country to be able to do nonproliferation work.”
Although Johnson said the site’s mission was not intended to be a storage ground for nuclear material, she said the site has the capabilities to safely store it. She supports new shipments of foreign material, such as German reactor fuel proposed for processing and disposition at SRS.
“I think it’s part of our obligation as a country, from a nonproliferation standpoint,” Johnson said.