Frank Hansen earns lifetime achievement award

By Whitney Lacy

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Frank Hansen receives award at ceremony
LIFETIME OF SERVICE — Retired Sandian Frank Hansen was presented the 2020 Wendell D. Weart Lifetime Achievement Award at a ceremony in March for his long-term commitment to solving major nuclear waste challenges. (Photo courtesy of the WM Symposia Inc.)

The Wendell D. Weart Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to retired Sandian Frank Hansen at a ceremony in Phoenix on March 10.

This award was created by Sandia and Waste Management Symposia Inc. in 2001, in honor of Wendall Weart, who retired from Sandia in 2000, to recognize the recipient’s long-term commitment to solving major nuclear waste challenges, including education, research, public policy and actions contributing to the resolution of significant nuclear waste management issues.

Of the many testimonials submitted in support of Hansen’s nomination, one notes that he is “one of the most versatile, practical, pragmatic, trustworthy, credible and reliable earth scientists and geoengineers.” Hansen, who retired in 2017, distinguished himself with a 45-year career in geomechanics applied to the geological disposal of radioactive waste, according to the nomination.

Hansen’s long career at Sandia began in 1988, when he was hired as an expert in field, lab and computer modeling studies in the behavior of salt for nuclear waste disposal. He helped Sandia with the licensing of the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant near Carlsbad, New Mexico — a process requiring in-depth regulatory and independent technical reviews. He was there when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency approved the facility in 1999 to begin accepting shipments of nuclear waste. He also helped with the licensing of the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository in Nevada.  

Hansen’s knowledge of how to isolate radioactive waste in deep, underground environments has led to numerous national and international collaborations for the betterment of nuclear waste management. He played a key role in a series of U.S.-German workshops on salt repository science, which have continued for the past 10 years.

“The international network of fellow scientists Frank constructed over the years serves to amplify Sandia’s impact globally in the field of nuclear waste management,” said Sandia senior manager Paul Shoemaker. “I’m delighted Frank was honored for this award. It is extremely well deserved.”

Wendall Weart, who is considered the “father” of Sandia’s work at WIPP, wrote this of Hansen: “No one, including myself, ever deserved the WMS Lifetime Achievement Award more than Frank Hansen.”