Steve Pfaff is a certified Project Management Professional with 35 years of nuclear facility experience including project initiation, design, construction, start-up, operations, waste management, oversight, and decommissioning. Beginning with his service as a nuclear-trained Surface Warfare Officer on two U.S. Navy nuclear-powered ships, to his expert oversight and project leadership roles for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Steve brings an unusual combination of technical and communications capabilities – resulting in the creation of high-performing teams and broad stakeholder support. Steve concluded his federal career as a DOE Federal Project Director (Level 2) – leading the first-ever successful Hanford tank waste pretreatment system project (Phase 1 — $164M) from initiation to construction. He navigated his multi-disciplinary project team through challenging internal and external conflicts, and difficult regulatory relationships, personally briefing the public, congressional members, and the highest DOE leaders to obtain funding and project authorizations.
Steve holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration and Naval Science from Oregon State University, and in addition to his project management certifications was a Contracting Officer Representative (Level 3).
Steve served as an Engineering Officer of the Watch and Officer of the Deck on two U.S. Navy nuclear-powered ships and was recognized for his ability to execute the most difficult ship operations during overseas deployments. Steve further employed his skills by training numerous officers and crew members in safe, compliant nuclear operations, and trained hundreds of junior officers in shipboard maneuvers and combat systems using a combination of classroom instruction, team simulators, and watercraft.
Following his transition to DOE, Steve promoted integrated safety management and operational excellence through his direct oversight of nuclear cleanup work at the Rocky Flats Site, the Hanford Tank Farms, and the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant Project. He was often selected to support and lead significant improvement efforts in nuclear safety, safety culture, and event investigation, and he provided expert technical leadership in support of two multi-billion dollar acquisitions for the DOE. His constant drive for personal and public education found expression as he hosted hundreds of guests – ranging from the general public, to university groups, international visitors, members of Congress, tribal nation representatives, and DOE leadership. He managed the Hanford Advisory Board, a 31-chair Federal Advisory Committee. Steve led a team effort to produce DOE’s first Safety Culture Improvement Plan in response to a Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board (DNFSB) recommendation, earning rare praise from the DNFSB chair for the “outstanding and excellent” plan.
Steve’s project leadership resulted in numerous first-time successes at the Hanford Site. Several new tank waste retrieval technologies were developed and deployed in the most challenging radioactive and hazardous waste environments. He promoted research into alternative tank waste immobilization technologies to broaden DOE’s ability to safely complete the Hanford tank waste cleanup mission in a timely and cost-effective manner. His most recent leadership of the Tank-Side Cesium Removal System project, amid several competing interested parties, demonstrated that smaller-scale modular waste processing is a superior approach to meet DOE cost and schedule goals and reduce environmental risks.