Just the other week, I traveled to Washington state where I had a great visit to our Hanford Site. My trip also happened to coincide with my one-year anniversary as Assistant Secretary of Environmental Management. One of my favorite parts of my job is getting to travel to our sites across the country. Over the past year I have had the opportunity to visit quite a few sites across the complex, and have been lucky enough to visit some of these sites more than once.
For this trip I wanted to focus on getting to know the workers who are enabling our success at Hanford. This is why I spent day one of my trip visiting with the workers on site and hearing their experiences at Hanford firsthand, which proved to be quite insightful.
During that day, I was able to meet with Jacob Johanns, Travis Beck, Derek Cap, and Greg Kraft, who make up the team from Columbia Energy working on the equipment for our Test Bed Initiative (TBI). This important project is allowing us to get waste out of tanks, and out of Washington state, safely and efficiently. I enjoyed speaking with the team and was impressed with the dedication of everyone I met.
Next I headed over to the 324 Building mock-up. This impressive facility allows our workers to train with remote-operated equipment in preparation for the safe demolition of the 324 Building. Site Operating Engineer Warren Baze showed me how to operate the manipulators, and even let me give it a try myself. Let’s just say I am glad we have such a well-trained and qualified group of operators. I also enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with Mel Williams, the field work supervisor at EM Richland Operations Office contractor CH2M HILL Plateau Remediation Company. Mel spoke about the importance of this facility, which allows our workers to get hands-on equipment training.
My first day also included stops at the Plutonium Finishing Plant (PFP), the Maintenance and Storage Facility (MASF), and PUREX Tunnel 2. Jimmer Stringer gave me a view of what was going on in the tunnel. I was able to see workers engaged in training activities at PFP and MASF, and got to see some of the final grout being poured into PUREX Tunnel 2. Once the grouting is completed in the coming weeks, it will represent a significant risk reduction for the site. This risk reduction is only made possible through the hard work of our team, so I’d like to thank them for their commitment to this project.
I was able to enjoy lunch with the maintenance and snow removal crews onsite. Crew members Ramon Deleon, Dan Phalen, Richard Omta, and Calvin Dudney and I had a great conversation at lunch, and I got a real appreciation for the hard work they do to support our site. The Hanford Site experienced a particularly brutal winter, with lots of snow and ice onsite, and this team worked hard to ensure the site was safe for all of our workers.
My second day at Hanford started with a meeting with the Office of Hanford Acquisition (OHA) staff. This impressive group has been working hard to ensure the success of EM’s new End State Contracting Model. I truly appreciate the hard work these men and women have put in to support this important initiative, and I wanted to take this opportunity to sit down with them and thank them in person. The team asked a lot of great questions that I have brought back to D.C. with me and we are taking a lot of their input into consideration for future procurements. The End State Contracting Model allows us to take a new approach to cleanup at our sites, and will enable us to achieve cleanup faster and more cost effectively, and we couldn’t do it without this team.
After I met with the OHA team, I headed out to the Wanapum Heritage Center, where I met with Rex Buck, Jr., the Wanapum Leader, and got to see many of the Wanapum artifacts that are being curated at the center. The Wanapum also welcomed me to a delicious lunch where I met with Wanapum Elder Irene Cloud. I was able to visit with Miranda Patterson, a student intern, who showed me the rotating and permanent exhibition at the Heritage Center. It was a truly memorable visit to their beautiful facility and I appreciate the Wanapum for giving me such a warm welcome.
I wrapped up my time in the Tri-Cities with a meeting with many of the local government and community leaders. I always enjoy meeting with members of the communities that host our sites, and was grateful to have this opportunity to hear directly from them. It was good to hear their perspectives on the cleanup priorities at Hanford and I appreciate their support for the important work we are doing every day.
Thanks to everyone who made this visit to Hanford so successful!