RICHLAND, Wash. – A nuclear technology program at an area community college helps the EM Hanford Site’s tank operations contractor maintain a stream of qualified applicants attracted by challenging and well-paying careers.
“It definitely prepares you to work out here,” said Cindy Torres, who is finishing up a Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) internship while completing a program in applied science in nuclear technology through Columbia Basin College (CBC). “The program focuses on how systems and components operate and what you need to learn to be safe and successful at Hanford.”
Finding qualified technicians is important to the current and long-term success of the Hanford tank farms cleanup mission, according to Ricky Bang, EM Office of River Protection tank farms program division director.
“The standards needed to do the work and stay safe here are high,” Bang said. “This is not a job where a person can walk in off the street and start immediately. There is a lot of training to teach people about the radiological conditions and to keep workers safe. We have specialized equipment workers use in the tank farms. There are regulations, policies, and practices that need to be followed, and you can only learn that through extensive training.”
The program offers several one-year certificates, and two-year degrees in nuclear operations, radiation protection, and instrumentation.
“The students are eager to learn,” said Steve Kirschenmann, a WRPS training instructor. “This program is producing highly educated people who can step right in and get to work.”
Garrett Wilz started work at WRPS almost four years ago after completing the CBC program.
“It gave me a head start because I learned all the core fundamentals — math, chemistry, mechanical, electrical,” Wilz said. “The course material covers pumps, valves, operating systems, and working in radiological areas.”
WRPS helped kick-start the program several years ago through financial support and scholarships. Most of the instructors are WRPS employees who teach evening classes.