EM on Track for Success on 2022 Priorities; EM-Los Alamos Hosts Public Forum Focused on Cleanup Mission; and much more!

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EM Update | Vol. 14, Issue 24 | June 21, 2022


EM Intern Finds Balance Between Work and Outdoor Pursuits in Idaho

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Tired of big cities, Justin Arena exercised his own version of Manifest Destiny and headed to the West to begin an internship at the DOE Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site, supporting one of EM’s highest-priority projects.
Arena, a senior chemical engineering student at Louisiana State University, applied at an online jobsite and landed a summer job with EM contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC) supporting the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU).
EM is currently executing a confirmatory run for IWTU using a liquid waste simulant prior to beginning radiological operations this fall to convert 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing liquid waste to a granular solid. IWTU is one of three liquid-waste treatment facilities within the EM complex designed to address the radioactive byproducts of historic spent nuclear fuel reprocessing.
“The field itself — nuclear science and nuclear waste — interested me,” Arena said. “It’s something I could see myself doing for a career.”


Louisiana State University student Justin Arena headed west to the DOE Idaho National Laboratory Site this summer for an internship supporting EM’s Integrated Waste Treatment Unit.

Although he’s only been supporting IWTU for three weeks, Arena said the engineers who support the program have been helpful and willing to accept him as a team member.

“I’m around a lot of knowledgeable engineers,” he said. “A lot of them are very willing to explain things to me and to include me.”

One of his tasks is to collect particle samples from the IWTU’s confirmatory run and measure the particle diameters. Based on extensive testing at the IWTU’s pilot plant at Hazen Research in Colorado, the dried particulate from the steam-reforming process should be about the size of coarse coffee grounds to maintain proper fluidization in the facility’s primary reaction vessel.

Like many interns, Arena likes to explore Idaho on the weekends.

“I like the openness, nature and mountains — the outdoorsy part,” he said. “It’s a pretty state.”

He said Idaho Falls is a welcome change from New Orleans, where he’s from.

“I like the small-town atmosphere,” he said. “I don’t like being in a big city; I like the area.”

Arena will support IWTU until August. He and the rest of the interns employed by IEC are required to give presentations about their summer experiences at the end of their internships.

-Contributor: Erik Simpson

Intergovernmental Groups Receive Progress Updates From EM Leaders, Tour WIPP


As their headlamp beams pierce the salty air, members of the Energy Communities Alliance get an up-close tour of newly created Panel 8 at the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant. The panel will begin accepting waste in late summer after Panel 7 is filled.

CARLSBAD, N.M. – The Energy Communities Alliance (ECA) and a task force with the National Governors Association (NGA) recently toured the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) and discussed waste-related issues that impact cleanup sites across the DOE complex with EM officials.
State regulators gathered for the spring meeting of the NGA Federal Facilities Task Force (FFTF) received updates from Jay Mullis, acting associate principal deputy assistant secretary for regulatory and policy affairs.
“By continuing to strengthen our engagement with you, our regulators, and with a diverse set of stakeholders, EM can build on our record of results, deliver for communities and prepare for sustainable cleanup success,” said Mullis.
The meeting included panel discussions on a consent-based approach to siting spent nuclear fuel facilities, long-term waste disposition and DOE’s Justice40 Initiative.
The ECA held a peer exchange meeting in Carlsbad, the location of the Carlsbad Field Office, which operates WIPP. EM Chief of Staff Michael Nartker addressed the ECA members, who represent local governments near EM sites. He emphasized that EM’s partnerships with local governments help advance EM’s cleanup mission.
“EM’s most impactful accomplishments over the many years of our history have been realized when EM and our cleanup partners, such as yourselves, are in alignment on goals that are both effective and achievable,” Nartker said.


EM Chief of Staff Mike Nartker addresses Energy Communities Alliance members at the alliance’s meeting in Carlsbad, New Mexico.


Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) chief operating officer Mark Pearcy helps members of the National Governors Association Federal Facilities Task Force pick out souvenir salt 2,150 feet underground in newly created Panel 8 at WIPP. Repository rooms are cut from a 2,000-foot-thick layer of salt left over from the inland Permian Sea 250 million years ago.

The ECA members also participated in panel discussions on the history and future of WIPP, waste storage and disposition, workforce development and collaborations with universities on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) initiatives.

EM’s Office of Intergovernmental & Stakeholder Programs has cooperative agreements with national, state, local and tribal organizations. The EM office also administers grants to those organizations, and works with them to host meetings for their members on a variety of EM-related issues. The next such meeting is for the National Conference of State Legislatures Nuclear Legislative Working Group on June 21-22 in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The group will provide state legislators from across the country insight into the EM program’s cleanup efforts.

“Engagements like these with regulators, tribal nations, local officials and other stakeholders are the cornerstone of EM’s 30-plus-years commitment to public involvement,” said Joceline Nahigian, director of the EM Office of Intergovernmental & Stakeholder Programs.


Members of the National Governors Association Federal Facilities Task Force gather upon arrival in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant underground, 2,150 feet below the New Mexico surface. They toured newly mined areas of the repository, as well as Panel 8, the next location for emplaced transuranic waste starting in late summer. Also pictured fifth from right is Joceline Nahigian, director of the EM Office of Intergovernmental & Stakeholder Programs.

The NGA Center for Best Practices established the FFTF in 1993 with support from EM to assist in the development of the initial Federal Facilities Compliance Act site treatment plans. The task force brings together governor-designated representatives from states affected by the ongoing cleanup of sites used in the production, testing and assembly of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.

Established in 1992, ECA is comprised of elected officials and administrators from local governments adjacent to or impacted by DOE activities. ECA's mission is to bring together local government officials in DOE-impacted communities to share information, establish policy positions and advocate community interests to effectively address an increasingly complex set of environmental, regulatory and economic development needs.

-Contributor: Roy Neese

Paducah Contractors Win Kentucky Governor’s Safety and Health Award


From left, Chris Neely, Mid-America Conversion Services (MCS) health and safety technician and United Steel Workers (USW) Local 550 Unit vice president; Brad Richards, operator technician and USW Local 550 committee member; Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear; Joe Johnson, MCS environment, safety and health manager; and Jamie Link, Kentucky secretary of labor.

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky’s governor recently awarded two prime contractors for EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office (PPPO) the state’s top safety and health award.

Mid-America Conversion Services (MCS), headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, and Paducah Site infrastructure support services contractor Swift & Staley, Inc. (SSI) both received the Governor’s Safety and Health Award at the Governor’s Safety and Health Conference and Exhibition in Bowling Green, Kentucky, last month.

“Protecting our folks on the job — it’s a part of our faith; it’s part of our values; it’s a part of looking out for everyone and living that very simple lesson that everybody counts,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “When we commit to safety, I think we live out that faith and those values.”

For more than three decades, the Governor’s Safety and Health Award has recognized organizations each year that demonstrate outstanding safety and health performance.

“A culture of safety is a journey, not a destination,” said MCS President and Project Manager Dutch Conrad. “It requires our continuing diligence, great leadership and the support of our United Steel Workers partners to accomplish milestones such as this.”


From left, Swift & Staley (SSI) Environment, Safety and Health Manager John Hobbs; Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear; SSI SAFE Team Chairperson Hailey Wiseman; United Steel Workers Local 550 Safety Representative Jason Gilbert; and Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary Jamie Link.

MCS operates and maintains the depleted uranium hexafluoride conversion facilities at the Portsmouth and Paducah Sites in Ohio and Kentucky, respectively. SSI provides numerous “landlord” functions including maintenance and security at Paducah.

Through Dec. 31, 2021, MCS employees logged almost 1.2 million hours on the job without a workplace injury accident or illness that resulted in lost time for the company, according to the Kentucky Labor Cabinet’s Department of Workplace Standards.

“These numbers are a result of true dedication to safety by every employee that comes to work each day at MCS,” said Joe Johnson, the environment, safety and health manager at Paducah. “Our employees want to be safe and they are safe.”

SSI employees worked 540,428 hours through the end of 2021 without an injury resulting in days away from work.

"Our employees work hard every day to provide exceptional service without injury and on schedule," said John Hobbs, SSI environment, safety and health manager. “Receiving this award is a reflection of those efforts and validates our priorities."

PPPO Manager Joel Bradburne said a robust commitment to health and safety at all federal and contractor levels is reflective of EM’s culture.

“Those responsible for ensuring our workers’ health and safety should be recognized for the important role they play,” Bradburne said. “PPPO appreciates Gov. Beshear’s personal acknowledgement of the importance of DOE worker safety.”

-Contributor: Kearney Ackermann, Kentucky Labor Cabinet, Amanda Scott  

Hanford Crews Qualified for Melter Heatup


RICHLAND, Wash. – Four of five crews of operations staff, including Commissioning Technician Gwendy Watkins, pictured here, at the Hanford Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant are now fully qualified in their “watch stations” in the Low-Activity Waste (LAW) Facility control room in preparation for heating up the LAW Facility’s first melter later this year. The crews qualified include operations control room supervisors and commissioning technicians focused on the facility control room and Balance of Facilities field activities. Their training qualifies them for managing, monitoring, responding to, anticipating, and communicating any potential or emerging issues during their shifts. The training department’s next focus will be delivering watch station qualifications to operations shift crews for LAW Facility container receipt handling, container pour handling, and melter equipment support handling. Training occurs in a simulator that mirrors the LAW Facility control room. Radioactive and chemical waste from Hanford's tank farms will be vitrified, or immobilized in glass, for safe disposal at the LAW Facility as part of Hanford’s Direct-Feed Low-Activity Waste (DFLAW) Program.

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