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Name: Triay, Inés
Current Position: Assistant Secretary

When Barack Obama selected Inés R. Triay for the position of Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management (OEM), he decided that her qualifications as a 24-year veteran of the Energy Department, including her oversight of a key nuclear waste disposal plant, trumped any concerns about her political contributions to former President George W. Bush. She took over the leadership of the Office of Environmental Management (OEM) in May 2009 after leading it in an acting capacity since November 2008. Triay is in charge of the US government’s primary cleanup operation of nuclear waste, which involves more than 100 sites located across the United States. 

Born in Cuba and raised in Puerto Rico, Triay, 51, came to the United States when she was three years old. She received her bachelor’s degree in chemistry, magna cum laude, and her PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Miami in Florida. Beginning in 1985, she conducted her post-doctoral studies in the Isotope and Nuclear Chemistry Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, one of the nation’s leading scientific research centers for weapons development and other technologies.
 
She stayed on at Los Alamos for the next 14 years, holding several key positions, including Los Alamos’ environmental representative to the Air Force at the Pentagon, as a recruiter for the laboratory, and as leader of the Isotope and Environmental Geochemistry Group. In 1994, she was put in charge of Los Alamos’ Environmental Science and Waste Technology Group, and from October 1997 to January 1998, she served as acting deputy director of the Chemical Science and Technology Division.
 
In April 1999, Energy Secretary Bill Richardson named Triay manager of the Energy Department’s Carlsbad Field Office in New Mexico. Her duties included overseeing the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP), the nation’s only deep geologic repository for the disposal of transuranic waste. (Transuranic elements, most notably plutonium, have atomic numbers higher than uranium, and they are radioactive. Transuranic waste is generally contaminated during the production of nuclear weapons.) During her tenure, the number of transuranic waste shipments to the plant increased from one or two per week to 25 per week.
 
However, in October 2003, it was revealed that 98 drums of nuclear waste arriving at the WIPP had not been properly inspected. Later that month Triay announced her resignation from the department and said that she would start her own company “in the area of homeland security,” In fact, she did not actually leave until January 2004, by which time no company had been started and instead she was in Washington, DC, working for OEM as deputy chief operations officer. She was later promoted to chief operations officer in 2005. During her tenure in these positions, OEM completed the cleanup of the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons site in Colorado and the Fernald uranium processing plant in Ohio. She also played an instrumental role in the commencement of remote-handled transuranic waste disposal operations at the WIPP in New Mexico.

In October 2007, Triay was named Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for OEM, the top civil service position for the office. She became acting Assistant Secretary for Environmental Management in November 2008.
 
Triay is a member of numerous professional organizations and has produced more than 150 articles, papers, reports, and presentations for professional conferences and workshops, as well as major trade publications.
 
Since 2001, she has made $3,500 in political contributions, all to two Republicans—George W. Bush ($2,000) and New Mexico Senator Pete Domenici ($1,500), according to OpenSecrets.org.
 
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