Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Nuclear Waste Program intern gains new appreciation for the scope of work at Hanford

RICHLAND, Wash. – During his summer internship with Ecology’s Nuclear Waste Program, Tri-Cities native Isaac Leggett expanded his knowledge about Hanford far beyond anything he’d learned growing up in the area.

Nuclear Waste Program 2019 summer intern Isaac Leggett
Isaac Leggett
“I’d say (I have) a much greater appreciation for the work that is being done from all agencies because it’s such a huge, complicated task,” Leggett said. “I knew it was a big deal as a kid growing up … but really kind of being met face to face with it (during the internship), it’s really staggering … how big of a deal it is.” 

Leggett, who is studying environmental science at Washington State University, grew up surrounded by people who worked at Hanford, including his grandfather, uncle and his friends’ families.

He also learned about Hanford to an extent at school in the Tri-Cities, and witnessed the local community embracing its Hanford culture, from the Richland High School “Bombers,” to establishments such as the Atomic Ale Brewpub & Eatery, to institutions including the REACH Museum and far more. 

Setting foot on-site

At Ecology, Leggett undertook a number of different projects.

Among his experiences, he scored two firsts: he toured the B-Reactor and went on site to visit the Waste Treatment Plant.

“I’ve gained a lot more appreciation for the complexity of what’s going on out there – how political it is and just the sheer scope of how big it is, and just how many things are there and how many things need to be done,” Leggett said.

His perspective about Hanford changed, he said, as he got to see the relationships in action between the different agencies involved.

While he learned that there can be friction between the regulatory agencies and the U.S. Department of Energy on some issues, he said there’s also a lot of collaboration.

“I can also say that there’s a lot of very good working relationships where people are very happy to work with regulators and contractors and Energy,” Leggett said.

Passion for the environment

Leggett is choosing to pursue environmental science because it’s something he’s passionate about – growing up, both his parents and grandparents taught him to appreciate the value of the natural world.

He’s not sure yet on where he wants to be after graduating. He wants to keep his options open, but the idea of coming home and working around Hanford is an enticing option.

“I like the idea of working around here. It’s a big project, it’s a lot of work and because it is complicated, that makes it a little more fun and interesting,” Leggett said. “I do enjoy working at Ecology. People are nice, people like working here, it’s fulfilling work. You feel good about coming to work and you know that what you’re doing is inherently good and helpful.” 

- Ryan Miller, NWP media coordinator

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