Texas Tech grad Sean Dunagan to take helm at DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant

Texas Tech grad Sean Dunagan to take helm at DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant
Texas Tech graduate Sean Dunagan is set to take charge at the DOE's Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP). (Source: Picasa)

CARLSBAD, New Mexico (KCBD) - Texas Tech graduate Sean Dunagan is set to take charge at the DOE’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in Carlsbad, New Mexico.

The Department of Energy describes their primary mission at https://www.wipp.energy.gov/:

"WIPP was constructed for disposal of defense-generated TRU waste from DOE sites around the country. TRU waste consists of clothing, tools, rags, residues, debris, soil and other items contaminated with small amounts of plutonium and other man-made radioactive elements. The waste is permanently disposed of in rooms mined in an underground salt bed layer over 2000 feet from the surface."

Dunagan will replace Bruce Covert as president and project manager of Nuclear Waste Partnership (NWP), the management and operating contractor at WIPP.

WIPP was in the news back in February of 2014 when a radiation leak was reported at the site. The site was reported free from contamination in April 2014, but nuclear waste was redirected to Andrews County. The site eventually reopened in January 2017.

WIPP introduced Dunagan in a news release on Tuesday:

Mark Whitney, Executive Vice President of AECOM’s Nuclear and Environment Group said, “Sean’s experience during WIPP’s recovery phase, coupled with his management experience at Sandia National Laboratories-Carlsbad (SNL-C), makes him an ideal candidate to replace Bruce. His strong relationships and roots in the local area are an added benefit as we continue to focus on our critical community commitment plan. I’m confident Sean will do an outstanding job.”

Dunagan will officially take the reins at NWP in September. He is scheduled to spend about two weeks with Covert to ensure a smooth transition occurs. Dunagan's expertise spans every aspect of nuclear operations at WIPP, including design and recovery, operations, research and development, project management, facility management, quality control, budgeting and regulatory compliance.

"This is a tremendous opportunity, and I am grateful," said Dunagan, who has been associated with the WIPP project since 2002. "WIPP is a valuable resource to our nation and community. As someone who grew up in this area, I recognize the significance of this project and assignment. WIPP has been extremely successful and has a bright future. I'm truly honored to be a part of it."

Most recently, Dunagan served as a Research and Development, Science and Engineering Manager in Special Projects & Remote Site Support for SNL-C. In this capacity, he led the team working on development of the WIPP 3D Performance Assessment effort, which will enable long-term regulatory success. Other responsibilities included ensuring regulatory compliance with 40 CFR 191 and 194 and supervision and responsibility for all facility management activities for SNL-C's remote site in Carlsbad. Additionally, this included responsibility for strategic planning and budgeting of the long-term plan for all Sandia-WIPP activities.

During the WIPP recovery effort following the 2014 fire and radiological events, Dunagan was detailed for more than two years from SNL-C as the DOE Carlsbad Field Office Senior WIPP Recovery Manager. In this position, he successfully led the restart of operations at the WIPP facility following a three-year shutdown.

Dunagan earned Master's of Sciences and Bachelor's degrees in Industrial Engineering from Texas Tech University. He resides in Carlsbad with his wife, Tara, and their three children.

Covert will remain with NWP's parent company, AECOM, serving in a senior leadership position. He said his time at WIPP has been both gratifying and rewarding.

"My wife, Patty, and I were welcomed with open arms when we came to Carlsbad more than two years ago," said Covert. "I am very proud of what our team has accomplished during my tenure here. We have a fantastic workforce and an extremely supportive community led by Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway. I'm leaving the project in good hands and look forward to working with Sean as he transitions into his new role with the company."

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