Weapons Complex Monitor Vol. 35 No. 22
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May 31, 2024

Robertson picked to succeed White at EM helm

By Wayne Barber

The Department of Energy is turning to longtime federal hand Candice Robertson to oversee the Office of Environmental Management after President Joe Biden announced plans to nominate William (Ike) White to a federal nuclear safety board.

The personnel move was announced Tuesday morning in a “colleagues” email to stakeholders from Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm. The email was viewed by Exchange Monitor. 

Candice Robertson is now a senior adviser at EM for clean power development at nuclear sites. Robertson has held many big jobs around Environmental Management, including chief of staff to the deputy secretary. She has also worked at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

White’s last day in charge of EM will be Friday, June 14, according to DOE. Robertson’s first official day in the job is June 16, the first day of that pay period.  

“Please join me in congratulating Ike White, who was recently nominated by the President to serve on the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DNFSB),’ Granholm said in the email. “While he awaits confirmation to the DNFSB, Ike will serve as a Senior Advisor, applying his expertise across DOE’s critical missions.”

White’s nomination was received May 23 in the Senate and assigned to the Senate Armed Services Committee. He would serve a term expiring Oct. 18, 2028. 

“Candice has over 20 years of experience in radioactive waste management and is well versed in EM’s mission, previously serving as the EM principal deputy assistant secretary of energy and as an associate principal deputy assistant secretary, as well as DOE’s Chief Human Capital Officer,” Granholm said in the email, which said Robertson plans to meet with numerous cleanup office employees in coming weeks.

Robertson’s title will have the same “senior adviser” title as held by White, a DOE spokesperson said before noon on Tuesday. 

Robertson has shown DOE’s top brass that she can carry out high-level EM responsibilities despite living well outside Washington, D.C., in rural Virginia, an industry executive told Exchange Monitor Tuesday. That same executive for a large company thinks the White House wanted to relieve White of responsibility for the Cold War and Manhattan Project remediation before the confirmation process gets rolling. Should a big accident occur at one of the sites while White is still in charge, it might derail his DNFSB nomination, the executive said.

Reactions to Robertson’s nomination from around the old weapons complex varied, according to an Exchange Monitor survey of contractor personnel and other observers. 

“First impression —good choice — she knows the DOE, how it works, what the challenges are,” said an executive with a small DOE contractor. “I hope she can help develop constructive solutions for the numerous procurement challenges,” the executive said. 

Likewise, an executive with an organization promoting commerce near the DOE’s Hanford Site in Washington state was bullish on Robertson’s appointment. 

“We have known and worked with Ms. Robertson for years in her various capacities at DOE,” said David Reeploeg, vice president of the Tri-Cities Development Council. “She has a solid understanding of the cleanup mission at Hanford, and as a former county commissioner, has an appreciation for the mutually-beneficial relationship that should exist between DOE and its host communities.”

The head of Savannah River Site Watch in South Carolina, Tom Clements, considers Roberson something of an unknown commodity with citizen groups. 

“Thus, when Ms. Robertson assumes her duties; it will be interesting to see if she aims to engage all stakeholders monitoring DOE cleanup matters,” Clements said. “ I wish her well in her important mission at EM.”

Anne Marie White, no relation to Ike White, was the last Senate-confirmed EM assistant secretary in 2018. 

Two years ago, the Government Accountability Office recommended Congress create a new DOE under secretary for nuclear waste management and environmental cleanup to oversee EM. The post would span administrations and provide stability, GAO said. 

Congress has yet to take action, a GAO representative said this week. 

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