Bechtel leader says farewell to the Tri-Cities

Physical construction of the Low-Activity Waste Facility will be complete by June 2018 and is slated to process some of the 56 million gallons of Hanford tank waste by 2022.
Physical construction of the Low-Activity Waste Facility will be complete by June 2018 and is slated to process some of the 56 million gallons of Hanford tank waste by 2022. Courtesy of Bechtel

Bechtel has been a member of the Tri-Cities community for the past 40 years. I’ve spent the past four and half years here, and I’m grateful for every minute.

My husband, Pat, and I arrived in the Tri-Cities in the summer of 2013 and since then have made incredible friendships. We’ve enjoyed the warm, dry summers and the many miles of hiking and biking trails. We’ve grown fond of the high desert — and especially the dozens of wineries nestled among the hills and rivers.

I commend the community for pursuing efforts to enhance residents’ quality of life, from creating a vibrant environment in which to live and play, to investing in science, technology, engineering and math programs and schools. I encourage the community to maintain our STEM focus — and build on the recent efforts to generate a truly diverse and inclusive environment in which everyone can fully enjoy all the Tri-Cities offers.

The Columbia River is a life force for the region. Local enhancement efforts, which Bechtel has supported for nearly 20 years, provide restoration, development and enhancement of the river shore.

The river is also what brought me here — to help turn Hanford nuclear waste that threatens the river into immobile glass for long-term storage. I’m proud to have been a part of the team at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant, or Vit Plant.

If you would allow me, I’d like to share a few of the team’s accomplishments before I leave them in my successor Brian Reilly’s capable hands. We have:

▪  Brought physical construction of the Low-Activity Waste Facility to the brink of completion, by June 2018.

▪  Shifted into the start-up and commissioning phase of this facility and more than 20 others with a large percentage of our systems turned over for start-up testing.

▪  Positioned the project to resume full engineering, procurement and construction work on the High-Level Waste Facility.

▪  Enhanced our nuclear safety and quality culture to a level that meets the Department of Energy’s expectations for ensuring the Vit Plant will operate with the highest quality and safety.

▪  Completed the testing required to demonstrate feasibility of specific vessels for the Pretreatment Facility.

The project of today is nothing like the project of five years ago. We have progressed the work to the degree that we are now turning on components and systems, checking to ensure they run correctly, and developing the policies and procedures for the next phase of cold then hot commissioning. We will finish construction in the near future and move completely into our start-up and commissioning phase.

I leave the project with immense admiration of the team’s technical expertise, strong focus on customer collaboration, and drive to complete the mission with the highest quality and safety. It has been a rewarding and exciting tenure at the Vit Plant, and I look forward to hearing about the many achievements on the way to making glass by 2022.

And I say a fond farewell to a community that has opened its arms to me and my husband, to Bechtel and to our employees all these years. The Vit Plant team is the most generous group of people I’ve ever worked with — both with their money and their time. Their generosity mirrors the community in which they live and work.

I’m proud of this team, of this mission to protect the Columbia River, and of this vibrant community.

Peggy McCullough is a Senior Vice President with Bechtel and was Project Director for the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant from July 2013 to December 2017. She has taken a new assignment as manager for Bechtel’s Nuclear, Security and Operations business.