In the spring of 1970, our nuclear fuel fabrication plant in Richland built and shipped its first fuel assembly to a power plant. That first assembly has taken its place in nuclear history as we continue to evolve and to shape our industry’s future.
With our eyes on the next generation of energy, we’ve made significant advancements in our industry and community in the past 45 years. We are developing partnerships and products that will shape the future of safe, clean energy, bringing business to the Tri-Cities and preparing the upcoming generation for careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
Fuel for the future
Engineering and manufacturing nuclear fuel for the energy industry is at the core of our Richland operations. Thanks to the hard work of our team, we introduced two new fuel types to the U.S. market in 2014 and 2015.
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One of these was ATRIUM 11, and we shipped the first eight lead test assemblies in December. After more than a decade of development, these assemblies are a significant achievement. This year, ATRIUM 11 was a finalist for a Platts Global Energy Award, bringing global attention to our products, community and Richland operations.
In addition to our success with ATRIUM 11, the first two rounds of test builds for our GAIA fuel assembly were completed this year. This new fuel offering is the first of its kind in the U.S. market, and the result of collaborative engineering in France, Germany and the United States, completed in Richland.
Our successes include a new collaboration with NuScale Power, a leading developer of Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technology, intended for initial deployment in Idaho. We entered a contract with NuScale to advance our mutual commitment to safe, economic, high-efficiency energy. NuScale selected us to design fuel for their SMRs, which are a less expensive and scalable way to provide carbon-free nuclear energy.
We’re also working with TerraPower, a nuclear energy technology company based in Bellevue. In January, our team finalized proof of fabrication and testing services for TerraPower’s reactor prototype, which is designed to create clean energy from depleted uranium.
The development of new products and services allows us to sustain our operations and work force and bring business to our community. These offerings are preparing us to meet the energy needs of tomorrow.
Preparing the next
STEM work force
To prepare for the future of energy, our 45 years of collective expertise must be shared with tomorrow’s work force to create the next generation of advancement.
Washington ranks fourth in the country for its number of technology-focused corporations, yet ranks 46th for participation in science and engineering graduate programs. Meanwhile, 25,000 STEM jobs in Washington go unfilled because of a lack of qualified candidates.
This is a serious concern. We want to see the Mid-Columbia sustain itself as a center for technological advances. Arming students with 21st-century skills is critical for our community, industry and economy.
We seek to prepare students for the future through partnerships with the Washington State STEM Education Foundation and Delta High School, and by volunteering at public schools in Kennewick, Richland and Pasco. Every February, we join the national Engineers Week campaign by bringing engineering projects to public classrooms. We support teaching financial literacy and entrepreneurship through our contributions and volunteer work with Junior Achievement. Over the past year, our employees donated hundreds of hours of their time to volunteering in classrooms and educational settings.
In addition to volunteering, we provide scholarships for the Nuclear Technology Program at Columbia Basin College and encourage the advancement of women in STEM through a scholarship with the Society of Women Engineers.
For 45 years, we’ve been proud to call the Tri-Cities home as we pursue new innovations and opportunities. As we work toward the future of nuclear energy, we look forward to sharing that future with you.