Synergism is at work in the Tri-Cities as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the community, Hanford, contractors and Columbia Basin College create new opportunities for the future work force.
A $100,000 grant from the NRC helps push CBC's radiological protection classes steadily forward. And the grant will be matched by CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co.
The combined grant means opportunities for CBC students. It means an educated work force for Hanford contractors. And it means another milestone achieved in CBC's quest for continuing excellence.
"A $100,000 grant to start a program is a huge deal to us," CBC President Rich Cummins told the Herald's Annette Cary. With state funding cutbacks and existing programs being given priority, additional money for new initiatives is doubly precious.
It's also a great example of how the college -- despite economic challenges -- has deepened its ties to the community it serves under Cummins' leadership.
The NRC gave grants totaling nearly $5 million to 37 different institutions for nuclear education curricula development.
It targeted the money for programs in nuclear engineering, radiochemistry and radiobiology, health physics, materials and mechanical engineering, reliability and risk analysis, electrical engineering, safeguards and security, human factors and human reliability and fire protection engineering.
CBC's share will go to hire an instructor to form a program around radiological protection technology classes to train students as health physics technicians.
These are high-demand jobs at Hanford and plants in the nuclear field, including Energy Northwest north of Richland.
"The need is great in nuclear power and for remediation at Hanford," Derek Brandes, CBC dean of career and technical education, told Cary. "The average age of workers is 55."
The reason for the aging work force is, of course, the virtual shutdown of nuclear power development in the United States while the rest of the world forged ahead without us.
Now, new plants are being developed even as the need at Hanford is increasing.
Companies that have pledged to support the program with cash, equipment, scholarships, internships or other contributions include Energy Northwest, Battelle, the contractor for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland and Hanford contractors Washington River Protection Solutions, CH2M Hill and Mission Support Alliance.
CBC hopes to be designated a nuclear center of excellence. It's no easy undertaking.
But with help like this, and the track record CBC has earned, we all can have great expectations.