Behind the scenes at the Nuclear Waste Program

Permitting nuclear waste with Annette Carlson


“I feel fortunate to have been in some projects in Ecology that have been great successes. I am fortunate to have worked with wonderful people and have had many wonderful learning opportunities.” said Annette. 

Woman smiles to the camera.

In this edition of our Behind the Scenes at the Nuclear Waste Program series, we sat down with Annette Carlson, the permitting project manager for the program. 

An encouraging force behind permitting

Annette is a familiar face for many working at Hanford. She's been a part of the Nuclear Waste Program for more than 20 years and has been working around Hanford even longer.

She is passionate about the work she performs within the permitting section since it’s a vital process at NWP. Annette leads the program’s permit coordinators, data specialist, the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) specialist, and the permit lead for the Integrated Disposal Facility at Hanford.

“Supporting my team and helping them be successful is my favorite part,” she said.  

A day in the life

One of the most important tasks for Annette and the permitting section right now is completing the Hanford Sitewide Permit revised renewal, Rev. 9A. This permit is our agency's main tool for overseeing the U.S. Department of Energy’s cleanup of Hanford.

Annette enjoys working with the rest of the team.

“Ecology has a family atmosphere. Everyone looks out for each other. When working on projects, everybody provides support and help to get things done. It is the people who make my job so special,” she points out.

On a regular day, she coordinates her projects and works with the staff supporting her. 

“I attend a lot of meetings, and with the teleworking environment, simple conversations have become a meeting," she noted, " But I mostly like interfacing with people and working on supporting them.” 

Making a career at Hanford

“I feel fortunate to have been in some projects in Ecology that have been great successes. I am fortunate to have worked with wonderful people and have had many wonderful learning opportunities.” said Annette. 

Annette has Bachelor of Communications and Master of Environmental Science degrees. She started working at the agency in 2008 as an environmental scientist, later became a permit writer, and progressed to permit coordinator. She’s now been the permitting project manager for the program since 2020.

group of woman stand on a roof of a building in safety gear.

Ecology team inspecting Hanford's Waste Treatment Plant.

Annette’s prior experience includes being a Hanford contractor and a public-involvement specialist. She switched between several contractors and agencies before permanently returning to her current position.

Annette enjoys learning on the job! 

“Every time I walk through the Pretreatment Facility, I learn something new. It provides a great learning ground on how to permit difficult scenarios and systems.” 

She also appreciates the time she spent learning how to be a permit writer and how to solve difficult problems throughout her career. This gave her the framework she now uses as a manager. 

I Love Lucy (and Hanford!)

When not working on one of the most complex nuclear cleanups in history, Annette enjoys collecting “I Love Lucy” items.


Items displayed on a bookcase

Annette's collection of I Love Lucy items has grown through the years. 

“I really enjoyed watching that show and  started getting stuff I liked, and I put it on my desk. People have been giving me [collectibles] throughout the years, since I started to work at Ecology in 2008,” Annette said.

Ample opportunity for future generations

“I have learned so much from working at Ecology. About environmental regulations, permits, our decision-making processes, general processes, and how these can be improved,” Annette said. “I have learned how we can be better and more efficient by listening and learning from others. I feel like there are so many people here with expertise.”

She also encourages younger generations interested in environmental protection work to pursue their dreams.

“It’s such an exciting time right now. ” She said. “The wealth of information is vast and the opportunities to grow in the environmental science realm are incredible.”

About our Nuclear Waste Program team

This blog is the second in our series highlighting our amazing team overseeing the federal government’s cleanup of the Hanford Site — one of the most contaminated nuclear cleanup sites in the world.

In each blog we spotlight an individual member of our Nuclear Waste Program and the work they do to keep Hanford cleanup on track.