Hanford contractors announce hiring plans

THURSDAY, APRIL 2, 2009, 10:38 A.M.

Hanford contractors say they are making quick work of identifying candidates for at least 600 positions they expect to fill in about the next six weeks with federal money to stimulate the economy.

The two Hanford Department of Energy offices will receive $1.96 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as soon as this week to accelerate cleanup of the Hanford nuclear reservation and create or retain about 4,000 jobs over three years.

DOE must obligate the money to projects by the end of September with plans to spend all of it by two years later. In the meantime, DOE is encouraging the three Hanford contractors that will receive the money to start hiring and putting people to work on cleanup as soon as possible.

“There’s an urgency to get work started and people employed,” said Dave Brockman, manager of the DOE Hanford Richland Operations Office.

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. will receive much of the money, $1.3 billion of the $1.96 billion, that will go to Hanford cleanup work, Brockman said Wednesday.

CH2M Hill now has an annual budget of about $522 million and employs about 2,200.

CH2M Hill plans to hire about 350 people in the next six weeks, said Vic Pizzutto, chief operating officer. It already has identified 150 workers for expected openings for decontamination and decommissioning jobs and for nuclear chemical operator jobs, he said.

At a job fair Friday and Saturday at the Shilo Inn in Richland CH2M Hill hopes to identify up to 200 candidates for mostly professionals jobs.

In addition, the transuranic solid waste project that was ramping down instead will be ramped up, which will retain jobs for about 300 workers, he said. That’s a total of 650 jobs, he said. He expects possibly half the new workers to come from the Mid-Columbia area, although that’s only a guess, he cautioned.

Washington Closure Hanford expects that 150 people will be hired either by it or its subcontractors in the near term.

And Washington River Protection Solutions plans to hire 100 to 150 people, which will include both organized labor and salaried workers.

“We’re well on our way to identifying a good pool of personnel,” said Bill Johnson, WRPS president.

WRPS has advertised for workers throughout the Northwest and within its parent companies. It is owned by URS and EnergySolutions with Areva as a primary subcontractor. It also has been recruiting at career fairs at universities and has been advertising in places where it knows workers are losing their jobs.

With much of the work to be done by subcontractors, he’s encouraging interested businesses to attend a small-business vendor forum April 29 at TRAC in Pasco. Registration is through the Tri-City Development Council at

Some of the toughest positions to fill may be pipefitters and insulators, Pizzutto said.

WRPS has a habitual shortage of industrial hygienists, Johnson said. Radiation technicians also may be more difficult to find than workers for other jobs, the contractors said.

However, recruiting engineers, who usually are in high demand, may be easier than anticipated as engineering and construction companies are facing tougher times, said Chuck Spencer, president of Washington Closure Hanford.

Both experienced workers and recent college graduates are being recruited, Johnson said.

“This give us an opportunity to bring in folks to fill roles for decades to come,” he said.

Because the money must be spent by the end of Sept. 2011, how many workers can continue at the site will depend on the size of annual budgets, Brockman said.

However, the second DOE Hanford office, the DOE Hanford Office of River Protection, is not expecting large numbers of layoffs when the stimulus money is spent, said its manager, Shirley Olinger. It will be building capacity to sustain the next generation of workers, she said.

The Office of River Protection is in charge of Hanford tank farms holding radioactive waste that will be treated at the vitrification plant when it begins operations in 2019.

In addition, the Hanford Atomic Metal Trades Council points out that the average age of Hanford workers now is 54. That should lead to some retirements and other attrition over the next few years.

For most workers, Hanford contractors must open jobs to internal transfers first and then go outside to hire. But HAMTC has agreed that contractors can go “straight to the street” for workers hired with American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money, said HAMTC president Dave Molnaa.

“We did it in support of the Obama administration,” he said.

In exchange, it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Hanford’s two new contractors, CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation and WRPS, obligating them to abide by collective bargaining agreements. That means they cannot renegotiate pension benefits until September 2011 at the earliest.

The new contractors had been instructed by DOE to offer the traditional Hanford pension only to current Hanford workers when their contracts began and to offer new workers a 401(k)-style plan. Because of the agreement reached, new workers represented by HAMTC and hired with stimulus money may choose either a 401(k)-style plan or a traditional pension.

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