Central Plateau Cleanup Company President John Eschenberg, center, welcomes this year’s summer interns and cooperative education program students to the historic B Reactor on the Hanford Site.
Central Plateau Cleanup Company President John Eschenberg, center, welcomes this year’s summer interns and cooperative education program students to the historic B Reactor on the Hanford Site.

RICHLAND, Wash. – U.S. Department of Energy Office of Environmental Management (EM) Richland Operations Office (RL) contractor Central Plateau Cleanup Company (CPCCo) hosted 20 college interns and cooperative education students this summer as part of an initiative to build and inspire the future workforce.

The internship program offers local students employment opportunities at the Hanford Site while they earn a degree, preparing them for potential careers in the nuclear cleanup industry.

“It has been really beneficial for me to get hands-on experience working alongside some incredibly smart and talented people,” said Evelyn West, an intern at CPCCo. “The highlight of my time is all the staff members willing to train and take you under their wings.”

Program participants work a one-year internship — part time during the school year and full time in the summer — in areas such as engineering, finance and project management. CPCCo is working on a formalized agreement with Columbia Basin College and Washington State University Tri-Cities to grow and foster the co-op program.

“One of the highlights for me has been building and growing my network of relationships,” said intern Alexis Solorio. “On top of that, I’m getting to work with specialized industry software, so there’s a nice balance of book learning in the classroom coupled with actual field experience when I’m on the job.”

Recently, program participants got a chance to see the historic B Reactor. The facility is the world's first full-scale plutonium production reactor and part of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. There, they learned about the role the reactor played in producing plutonium for national defense during World War II and the Cold War and observed the work CPCCo is doing to preserve the facility for safe public access and educational opportunities.

“The one thing from the B Reactor tour that stood out to me the most was learning about how quickly the entire project came together,” said Michael Wymore, a CPCCo engineering intern. “They were able to build something that had never been done before and have it operational in less than 18 months — it’s an amazing feat.”

Intern Bryce Bean’s parents are long-time Hanford employees, so he is familiar with the work at the site. But something about Bean’s experience at B Reactor hit home with him.

“Seeing the reactor face for the first time, I was just wowed,” said Bean. “And to think this is what started it all! I’ve read about it, but to see it up close and in person is something quite different. You really get the sense of how important this mission was to this community and the entire country. It also helped me see why the cleanup is so important. It feels great to be part of something so meaningful.”