Frank Hansen Honored For Lifetime Achievement
Frank Hansen was born in Philip, South Dakota, attended school in Philip, and is a 1969 graduate of Philip High School. With the help of grants, academic scholarships and work-study programs, Frank was able to continue his education at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. By 1974 he held a B.S. and M.S. in Civil Engineering. At that time one of Frank’s professors approached him about joining a new company (RESPEC) investigating an emerging research field of geologic disposal of nuclear waste and asked if he might be interested. For Frank this was a major fork in the road leading away from traditional Civil Engineering to the beginning of his career and long-term commitment to solving growing nuclear waste challenges. Frank obtained his Ph.D. in Geology/Tectonophysics at Texas A&M in 1982, and devoted 45+ years to engineering and scientific research involved with geologic disposal. In March of 2020, Frank was awarded the WMS Wendell D. Weart Lifetime Achievement Award.
The Lifetime Achievement Award criteria include a minimum of ten years in the field of nuclear waste management solving significant technical challenges, resolving the most pressing challenges, serving in a public policy role, or achieving notable public education regarding facts of nuclear wastes. Frank’s commitment to his career included all these criteria.
Frank joined the U.S. Department of Energy’s Sandia National Laboratories in 1988. During his long tenure at Sandia, he reached the highest technical staff levels including promotion to Distinguished Member of Technical Staff in 1999, and promotion to Senior Scientist in 2012.
Frank contributed significant original research in rock mechanics to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), which is a nuclear waste disposal facility near Carlsbad, New Mexico. He developed specialty materials such as salt-based concrete and reconsolidated salt, designed panel closure systems, characterized rock properties of the disturbed rock zone, measured material properties, and presented and defended these works in a rigorous regulatory environment. He was a principal architect of the performance confirmation programs at WIPP and other projects, including many international studies with European Union nations
Closer to home, Frank voluntarily participated in public education and extensive public outreach for the DOE-sponsored Deep Borehole Field Test to advance deep drilling technology in Haakon County, including providing knowledge and expertise to Heather Wilson when she served as President of South Dakota School of Mines, to Dennis Daugaard when he served as Governor, and to the President and CEO of RESPEC, a leading engineering services firm with a long history in repository development.
Frank’s career accomplishments in nuclear waste management are further evidenced by numerous recognitions and awards through the years. He held many professional memberships which involved committee functions, presentations, and organization of symposia and conferences. He was elected Fellow of the American Society of Engineers in 2006 and has been a registered Professional Engineer since 1979. He was invited to give the keynote address at conferences in Leipzig, Germany, and Paris, France, and has published over 150 citable research papers, journal articles, symposia proceedings and technical reports. Since his retirement from Sandia National Labs, Frank continues to consult sparingly and is a sought-after mentor and consultant for other Laboratories, workshops and experts world-wide.
Frank’s nomination was compiled by long-term colleagues at Sandia Labs and endorsed by national and international leaders in the field. The nomination package from which I obtained the material for this article runs over 20 pages, not counting letters of endorsement. Frank and I attended 12 years at Philip School together, and I thought his accomplishments would be of interest to the readership of the Pioneer Review.