PULLMAN, Wash.—Secretary of Energy Federico F. Pena announced today in Richland a $544,500 DOE grant to Washington State University physicist Thomas Dickinson.
Dickinson will use the 3-year Environmental Management Science Program grant to carry out fundamental studies for understanding several chemical analysis techniques used to determine the composition of toxic wastes in clean-up sites at several national laboratories.
Dickinson is internationally recognized as a leader in the mechanisms of laser-materials interactions.
Dickinson’s grant is one of 66 grants and awards totaling $46 million to 39 public and private organizations in 24 states that will conduct basic scientific research designed to solve some of the nation’s most complex environmental remediation challenges. A primary focus of the research will be environmental problems at Department of Energy facilities that once were part of the nation’s nuclear weapons production complex.
“The cleanup of the nuclear weapons complex managed by the Department of Energy is an enormous task,” Secretary Pena said. “In the next 10 years alone, over $50 billion will be spent on radioactive and hazardous waste treatment, soil and ground water remediation, nuclear materials stabilization and retiring old facilitates. The 66 projects being announced today hold the promise that this cleanup will be done quicker and more economically.”
The grant will fund Dickinson’s work on laser mechanisms which will improve the reliability of high sensitivity, high volume chemical analysis. In addition, his work will reduce the amount of sample material needed for analysis and, by reducing the size of the testing equipment, permit measurements of hazardous wastes to be made on-site. As a result, “these methods have great potential to reduce the cost and risk associated with analysis by minimizing sample size and handling. For radioactive materials, such as those in the Hanford tanks, and other toxic materials such methods are extremely important.” said Dickinson.
According to Leon Radziemski, WSU sciences dean, by focusing on the fundamental processes, Dickinson’s research “will lead to a more reliable technique with fewer false positives. Hence the confidence in the results will increase and make it a more valuable tool for rapid on-site analysis.”
Interest in the technique was stimulated in the early 1980s by work done by WSU student David Cremers and Radziemski, when they worked together at Los Alamos National Lab. Dickinson’s work will be done in collaboration with Michael Alexander, staff scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Tri-Cities.

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