More than 100 of them were at the Hanford Site. To get acquainted with their workplace — EM’s largest cleanup project with more than 9,000 workers — the interns participated in a tour of the 580-square-mile site.
"Touring the Hanford Site was a great way to begin the summer, and it gave me a better sense of how the work I do and see in communications connects to the cleanup mission," EM Richland Operations Office (RL) intern Chandler Bethley said.
Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS), Hanford’s tank operations contractor, hosted college sophomores, juniors, seniors, and recent graduates. Many of them focused on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, but others worked in business programs, such as internal auditing, human resources, and project management.
“Working an internship at Hanford gives students experience in their field of study, while preparing them to enter the workforce, whether that’s here at Hanford or elsewhere in the community,” RL’s Santos Ortega said.
In addition to learning about the site’s history and current cleanup challenges, the interns saw firsthand what Hanford’s future will hold.
“Everything you’ve seen today gives you a glimpse of the remaining work ahead. If you choose to continue your career at Hanford, the challenges that need to be solved will become your accomplishments,” said Brian Von Bargen, vice president for site services and interface management at Mission Support Alliance, RL’s site services contractor.
The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’s (WIPP) 13 interns worked across the site, from Rad Control to Work Control and in five other departments. For a couple of the engineering students, the summer cemented their interest in contributing to WIPP’s mission in their careers.
Ben Batchelder and Alyssa Hendren graduated this spring and now work for Nuclear Waste Partnership, WIPP’s management and operations contractor. Both returned to the same departments where they spent the summer — Batchelder in Engineering and Hendren in the Central Characterization Program.
Batchelder worked on a variety of systems at WIPP over more than one summer and decided to pursue a career at the site because he found the work to be interesting. This spring, he received his mechanical engineering degree from the New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology.
He said the internship program provided a good foundation for him as he worked on a final-year college design project and served as a great link between the academic and working worlds.
“It really helped me learn how to write so that everyone at the site could understand,” he said of working with his mentor to translate engineer speak. “It’s so important to be able to get across what you need to.”
For Hendren, meeting employees through her internship was important in her decision to use her chemical engineering degree from New Mexico State University at WIPP.
“It was the atmosphere and the people,” she said. “They’re all very friendly.”
Much of Hendren's work at WIPP was directly tied in with new waste characterization requirements, including chemical compatibility evaluations, put in place since 2014.
She said any student with an interest in environmental management would benefit from an internship at WIPP.
This summer, 50 interns worked with EM’s Portsmouth/Paducah Project Office. Thirty-nine of them joined cleanup contractor Fluor-BWXT Portsmouth at the former gaseous diffusion plant near Piketon, Ohio. At its sister site at Paducah, Kentucky, nine interns worked with EM’s deactivation and remediation contractor, Four Rivers Nuclear Partnership, and two of them assisted infrastructure support services contractor Swift & Staley.
The students spent 10 to 12 weeks working in fields ranging from business services to regulatory planning to nuclear safety and engineering.
Emma Edwards, a mechanical engineering junior from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, said she was interested in a Portsmouth Site internship because she “wanted to see how the knowledge gained from school applies in the real world, and to learn more about the history and current operation of the plant.”
The interns also participated in learning sessions, networking, and community service.
Senior Logan Mitchell, a business administration major from Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, said he returned to the Paducah Site for a second summer to continue honing his professional skills and expanding his network.
“The DOE program included a lot of speakers, and our mentors were devoted to helping us grow,” Mitchell said. “I wanted another opportunity to learn from them.”
DOE Fellows from Florida International University (FIU) interned at sites throughout the complex, including DOE headquarters in Washington, D.C., the Hanford site, and the Savannah River, Pacific Northwest, and Los Alamos national laboratories. The 17 FIU STEM students are part of the EM–FIU Science & Technology Workforce Development Initiative.
“Witnessing the results of our research being applied in a real world environment was a rewarding experience,” intern Tristan Simoes-Ponce said. “Seeing the onsite demonstration firsthand highlighted the operational difficulties of deploying environmental technologies in the field.
Intern Silvina Di Pietro helped Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) scientists with experiments involving contaminated Hanford Site soils.
“Interacting with the professionals in my field was the best part of my internship experience,” Di Pietro said. “Working alongside geochemists at PNNL increased my professional knowledge on the research I am performing. Their invaluable input, suggestions on how to improve my experiments, teaching, and collaboration allowed for my professional growth. This, in turn, allowed me to become a better scientist because I emulate their thinking.”
Nearly 170 students from dozens of colleges and universities gained professional experience while contributing new ideas during internships this summer with EM’s Savannah River Site (SRS) management and operations contractor and the Savannah River National Laboratory.
"Our reputation on college campuses throughout the U.S. is definitely growing," Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) Intern Coordinator Nate Diakun said.
Student interns came to SRS from 17 states and U.S. territories including California, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Texas, and Puerto Rico.
SRNS engineering intern Magdalina Hansen of Clemson University said her assigned tasks have added to her skillset.
“It involves using a computer-aided design program to help design stretch-wrap covers for radioactive containers stored in K Area,” she said. “I highly value this experience and the opportunity to work with people who are in the occupational field I'm pursuing.”
Current and former interns accepted 90 percent of SRNS job offers in 2017, up from 83 percent a year prior, according to Diakun.
Savannah River Remediation (SRR), EM’s SRS liquid waste contractor, hosted 37 students in its summer internship program. They worked in areas ranging from engineering to law to communications.
Mikhaela Kelson is pursuing her master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in human resources at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina. She worked as a labor relations intern with SRR this summer.
“I chose HR because it allows me to take what I’ve learned from my background in sociology and apply it to real life situations,” said Kelson. “I figured out how to incorporate both of my college degrees into one career field in labor relations and human resources.”