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Eschenberg to Take Over Top Federal Spot on Project; Brings Cleanup, Waste Treatment Plant Experience As the Uranium Processing Facility moves toward a key 90 percent design milestone and the start of construction, the National Nuclear Security Administration selected John Eschenberg to be the project’s new Federal Project Director with a mandate to pull everything together and make sure the multi-billion-dollar project gets off to a good start. The 44-year-old Eschenberg currently serves as interim manager of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge office and has been a star in the federal agency’s Environmental Management program.

Eschenberg said he will transition to the UPF role sometime within the next month after wrapping up some activities and stabilizing things in the Oak Ridge office, where multiple positions are being filled on an acting basis. He noted that the timing for UPF is critical, with the Oak Ridge projects receiving new priority from the Obama administration with a big bump in the proposed funding for Fiscal Year 2013 ($340 million). Eschenberg wouldn’t say who first approached him about taking over the UPF role, but he spent time with Tom D’Agostino earlier this year when the NNSA chief came to Oak Ridge to review some of the environmental management problems that come under his umbrella as under secretary. He said he was excited to be able to lead a big project of national urgency. “It’s going to be NNSA’s iconic project,” Eschenberg said. “It would be awfully hard to say no to the opportunity to manage something like that.”

Eschenberg Brings Experience at EM’s WTP

Before coming to Oak Ridge about 2 ½ years ago to head up DOE’s cleanup program, Eschenberg was involved in management of some other big projects, including the $12 billion Waste Treatment Plant at Hanford, and he is certified as a Level IV Project Manager in DOE’s Project Management Career Development Program. Eschenberg said he didn’t want to spell out all the details of how he will organize the federal staff at UPF, but he said he would have at least one deputy. Eschenberg will report directly to Washington and Bob Raines, NNSA’s Associate Administrator for Acquisition and Project Management.

The UPF is about two-thirds of the way through design, and site preparation is expected to begin later this year. The federal project is currently estimated to cost somewhere between $4.2 billion and $6.5 billion, and it is touted as the largest construction project in Tennessee history. “We’re fresh out of the blocks,” Eschenberg said. “It’s got the full support of the Administration. It’s got a lot of community support.” He said it was personally a difficult decision to leave the DOE post and move over to the NNSA’s high-profile nuclear project. But he said the community has been very supportive of him and said he hopes that will transition with him to his new assignment.

Project Key to ‘America’s Nuclear Security’

While Eschenberg will not be a part of the NNSA’s Y-12 Site Office, reporting to HQ, he said he would work on a daily basis with Steve Erhart, the new federal manager in charge of the Y-12/Pantex production complex, and Erhart’s Y-12 deputy, Dan Hoag. Before coming to Oak Ridge, Eschenberg held management roles at Hanford, Los Alamos and Savannah River. He said UPF will be a challenge, which is what makes his job fun. The project is of true national importance, he said. “I think America’s nuclear security will rest to a large extent on our ability to design and build this mammoth project,” Eschenberg said. “This combines the highest level of technology and security and so, in my mind, we’re really securing our country’s nuclear future.” —From staff reports

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