New Years Greetings for Atomic Workers from International Vice President Roxanne Brown

Dear Siblings,

We appreciate the progress you made at your sites this past year, especially in maintaining a safe workplace despite working through the second year of the pandemic.

USW members at Idaho National Laboratory (INL) marked 30 years of successfully cleaning up waste sites containing unlined wastewater disposal ponds, debris piles, radioactive groundwater plumes, buried barrels and boxes of radioactive and hazardous wastes, among other items.

They are also on the cusp of removing more than 49,000 drums of radioactive and hazardous waste from the Subsurface Disposal Area, an unlined landfill, 18 months ahead of schedule. This and other work they’ve executed is safeguarding the Snake River Plain Aquifer and protecting Idaho’s residents, wildlife and environment—no small achievement!

Our members at the Hanford, Wash., Portsmouth, Ohio, and Paducah, Ky., cleanup sites also continue to mark noticeable progress in eliminating the nation’s hazardous and radioactive waste imprint from decades of nuclear weapons research and production.

At the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, N.M., our members rebounded from the underground truck fire and the 2014 radioactive release from an emplaced waste drum that exploded due to the wrong material placed in the container. WIPP just accepted its 13,000th shipment and is getting ready to move transuranic waste into a newly-mined area.

Throughout the pandemic, USW atomic locals and members continued to press for safe working conditions. For example, workers on the depleted uranium hexafluoride project at the Portsmouth and Paducah sites pushed for and obtained major plant modifications to make their work safer.

Our members at Nuclear Fuel Services in Erwin, Tenn., understand how to safely conduct nuclear fuel fabrication and uranium recovery operations to produce nuclear fuel. When supervisors started prioritizing production over safety earlier this year, the local’s union leaders immediately talked to the NFS CEO and moved the focus back to operating safely.

USW atomic sector locals continue to push their contractors to use the union’s effective health and safety training that the USW Tony Mazzocchi Center provides to improve working conditions at these hazardous sites. The TMC’s classes for lead trainers and members who conduct train-the-trainer classes ensures that as many workers as possible will receive the information they need to keep safe and maintain their health.

Finally, our union is helping bring in a new generation of workers to the nuclear sector by conducting training for radioactive control technicians.

Our atomic workers have done tremendous work this past year, and despite the pandemic continuing to prevent us from meeting in person, we conducted virtually our Atomic Energy Workers Council meetings to handle issues that arose because of the virus and other problems.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday with your family and friends and please stay safe! I look forward to this new year when we can continue to make progress together.

In Solidarity,

Roxanne Brown
USW International Vice President at Large
Head of the USW atomic sector

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