Darryl Siemer is a professional chemist who spent his career in nuclear waste remediation at the Idaho National Laboratory. While there, he developed a reputation as someone who will not go along to get along and apparently made quite a few waves by suggesting improvements in processes or technical decisions that might have resulted in the loss of numerous jobs by actually completing tasks and reducing expenditures on technical dead ends.
In a world dominated by “cost plus” contracting, beneficial suggestions are often quite unwelcome and can result in efforts to isolate and marginalize the source.
Contractors will often take advantage of the fact that most people have a very difficult time understanding that decision makers must avoid worrying about “sunk costs” when they are deciding on the best path forward. They point out all of the money that has already been spent on a particular project and tell you that it will all be “wasted” if they stop what they are doing and take a path that is more likely to lead to success.
The problem with that logic is that the money that has already been spent is gone. It is already wasted if the path to completion that builds off of the “completed” work will cost more than starting all over again on a more correct path that leads to a result that is actually better than the result that can be foreseen on the current path.
Darryl points out that there are several fatal flaws in the current technical path being followed at the Hanford tank farm. He is certain that attempting to segregate the sludge in the tanks is difficult enough to be called impossible within the constraints of any foreseeable expenditures. He knows that the borosilicate glass that has been chosen as the final waste form is incompatible with several of the components of the sludge. Finally, he believes that it is a fantasy to assume that there will be any available “somewhere else” that will accept the material, no matter what form it is in.
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