OAK RIDGE, Tenn. – Earlier today, personnel from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and Wastren Advantage, Inc. (WAI) met to celebrate the achievement of three million work hours without a lost-time accident at the Transuranic Waste Processing Center (TWPC).
The TWPC is a vital component within Oak Ridge’s Environmental Management (EM) program, responsible for processing, treating, and shipping transuranic waste, a special class of highly-radioactive waste originating from defense-related research. This particular waste contains man-made isotopes that pose significant risks to human health and the environment.
“Surpassing three million safe work hours is an incredible accomplishment, but it is further magnified when you consider employees are working daily with some of the most hazardous waste on site,” said John Eschenberg, Oak Ridge Office acting deputy manager and assistant manager for EM. “I’m extremely pleased with the TWPC leadership for fostering a culture that recognizes the importance and benefits of working safely.”
Removing transuranic waste from Oak Ridge remains a priority for the EM program. The site used $143.5 million of its Recovery Act funds to accelerate waste processing by employing additional shifts of workers. Of the three million safe work hours accumulated during the past nine years, one million of those have been recorded since Recovery Act work began in 2009.
Through extensive safety training, the influx of new employees was able to achieve a substantial safety milestone, despite many having no prior nuclear industry experience. Daily activities include “hands-on” work with contact and remote-handled waste involving glove boxes and bubble suits.
“I am so proud of the TWPC workforce. Surpassing the three million man-hour milestone without a lost time accident is such a significant achievement,” said TWPC General Manager Bob McKay. “It translates into nine years and three months of doing technically challenging and hazardous work safely. This does not happen without a grass roots commitment by the workforce to continuous improvement. Our challenge going forward is to make the remaining years of the project equally safe.”
The TWPC has garnered safety awards prior to their more recent accomplishment, earning the Voluntary Protection Program Star of Excellence, one of the most elite safety recognitions within the DOE complex. The TWPC is managed by WAI for the DOE.