Kurion acquires Richland's Vista Engineering Technologies

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 29, 2014 

Vista Engineering Technologies of Richland is being acquired by Kurion, a company that has been developing nuclear and hazardous waste vitrification technology in Richland, Kurion announced Wednesday.

Vista, founded in 2000, has been doing engineering work for Kurion over the last year, supporting its development work in Richland, and the two companies saw some common ground, said Dave Brockman of Kurion, who will oversee the combined company's domestic business as senior vice president.

About 60 percent of Vista's work is for Hanford and it has subcontracts with all of the nuclear reservation's major contractors, said Phil Ohl, Vista's president. He will become chief operating officer of Kurion as part of the deal.

About 90 percent of Vista's work is for the federal government, including work at the Umatilla Chemical Depot -- the majority of which has been completed -- and some for the Air Force.

Joining Kurion will allow Vista to do important engineering around the world, including helping solve world crises, Ohl said.

"These are important, meaty things our employees can sink their teeth into," he said.

Kurion is using a proprietary material to capture cesium in contaminated sea water used to cool the Fukushima, Japan, reactors after the nuclear disaster nearly three years ago. It also has a new system in place to separate tritium from water there.

Earlier this month Kurion announced it will deploy a full-scale in-container vitrification system in cooperation with the United Kingdom's National Nuclear Laboratory at the Sellafield, England, nuclear site. The plant will be used to evaluate vitrification for a variety of waste at the site with the goal of providing a treatment for small, problematic waste streams with no current disposal plan.

It also is in talks for vitrification work in Italy and Australia, Ohl and Brockman said.

Kurion established a 13,000-square-foot test laboratory in Richland in 2012 to develop a vitrification test platform. It chose Richland because the company knew the Tri-Cities had the work force with the experience it needed and because it is interested in doing Hanford work, Brockman said.

Vista's Hanford subcontracts will be Kurion's first Hanford work, enhancing its position to do more work at the nuclear reservation, Brockman said.

Kurion is proposing tank-side vitrification of some of Hanford's radioactive waste rather than vitrifying, or glassifying, 56 million gallons of radioactive waste at the massive waste treatment plant under construction by the Department of Energy. The plant is not scheduled to begin operating until 2019.

Kurion believes it has a more flexible and faster way to treat some Hanford waste, heating it into glass for disposal in small, customized batches.

But because of Kurion's international work, it also brings economic diversification to the Tri-Cities with projects not linked to Hanford. Kurion testing and design work is done in Richland with fabrication contracted through Tri-City area businesses.

It's a step toward the post-Hanford economy and Vista "is very proud to be part of the cutting edge," Ohl said.

Among Vista's expertise is remote systems and services, which it has used to perform inspections at Fukushima. In addition to engineering work, it has expanded in recent years to do renewable energy initiatives and electric vehicle charging station infrastructure.

Kurion will diversify its work with the acquisition of Vista and the agreement includes Vista's technology, patent and trade secret portfolio. All of Vista's 60 employees will be retained and Kurion's Tri-City offices will be based at the Vista building on Columbia Park Trail.

Vista has donated time and money to many community organizations, and Kurion also is committed to being a good corporate citizen and will do as much or more for the community, Brockman said.

Kurion also has facilities in Oak Ridge, Tenn.; Houston, Texas; Loveland, Colo., and Irvine, Calif.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533; acary@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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