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My Last Days as a DOE Intern

Wow, this summer really has gone by fast!  I started the month of June as an intern for the Department of Energy Office of Legacy Management in Grand Junction, CO.  And now it is over already.  I was able to visit some really cool sites that are managed by DOE-LM and by DOE-EM.  All in all, I went to 10 different sites in 5 states.  Now that is a lot of traveling!  A lot of those were day trips though and were relatively close to GJ.  Some of the longer trips were to Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico.  Here is a complete list of my site visits in chronological order:

–Green River, UT

–Grand Junction Disposal Cell

–Central Nevada Test Area

–Shoal Site, NV

–Monticello, UT

–Rifle, CO

–Uranium Leasing Program Sites

–Shiprock, NM

–Monument Valley, AZ

–Moab, UT

Yesterday I completed my research project about compliance issues of uranium in the underlying aquifer at the Old Rifle Processing site and I gave a PowerPoint presentation to my mentor and most of the other federal staff here.  After my talk, my mentor asked me “Have you considered working for the federal government?”  🙂  That made me happy!  Now I must bid you adieu.  Good-bye!


Moving a Mountain in Moab

Entrance Sign

It is about a 2 hour drive to Moab from Grand Junction.  Mark, one of the feds organized this trip for the interns and one of the new site managers on board.  (She spent many many years with the Yucca Mountain project, but we all know how that ended…).  We had the wonderful opportunity to meet with Don Metzler, a Level 4 Federal Project Director (there aren’t very many of those).  He oversees the billion dollar Moab UMTRA site.  The basic gist is that there is a 16 million ton pile of legacy uranium mill tailings sitting next to the Colorado River in Moab, UT.  Because of political factors and public concern it is being moved 30 miles north to Crescent Junction to be laid to rest in a disposal cell.   There is actually another USDOE office here in downtown Grand Junction, which I didn’t know about.  That is where Don sits with his staff; he is part of the Office of Environmental Management, not LM. Don is a very charismatic man and we were able to sit with him in the conference trailer in Moab and listen to the story of how this project manifested itself.  The public relations officer was also there to answer questions.  After hearing the story of the Moab UMTRA site, we hopped into an SUV and toured the site.  It was an amazing operation! Continue reading

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This past week I travelled to the Navajo Nation with senior scientist Jody Waugh and my fellow intern.  Our two destination sites were Shiprock, NM and Monument Valley, AZ.  The first day was a travel day from Grand Junction, CO to Cortez, CO.  We drove through some beautiful mountains and even had a chance to check out Telluride.  The next morning we headed out bright and early.  It gets pretty hot during the day and that day was no exception.  The mercury hovered around 100 degrees.  There is a contaminant plume around the disposal cell in Shiprock and DOE and its contractors want to find out what portion can be attributed to the cell and to natural background levels.  Dr. Waugh is a rangeland ecologist and has proposed looking at dendrochronology of surrounding tamarisk trees to find some answers.  He can also look at the chemistry of specific rings in order to map yearly contaminant levels.  This means we had to do some reconnaissance to tag viable trees. Continue reading

The Uravan Mineral Belt: A Piece of Nuclear History

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Wow, what a trip!  My fellow intern and I accompanied Ed C. and Sandy B. to visit uranium leasing tracts held by DOE in southwestern Colorado.  Our purpose was to review sites that had been reclaimed and verify that they met NEPA requirements.  First of all I didn’t know that this beautiful part of Colorado existed, why didn’t anyone ever tell me?!  Second of all, I didn’t know that DOE had a uranium leasing program, so this was all new to me.  The only downsides to the trip were the skeeters, gnats, lack of toilets (I think one must get used to this when traveling to remote locations) and the 12th hour in the GSA (government vehicle).

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Happy 4th!

I hope everyone had a great Fourth of July!  My long weekend with my
parents was fabulous.  We saw a concert at the local botanical gardens,
went to Colorado National Monument, saw fireworks and a parade. Alas,
work has to begin again.   I rode my bike to work today and it felt good
to leave the car at home.  For being an Environmental Health major,
sometimes I feel like I don’t live up to the name.

I am trying my best to reduce the amount of energy I use!
I worked more on my paper which seems to be coming along nicely.  I just
hope that I don’t run out of time to write it.  I spent a good portion
of the day executing plans for later this week and next.  Coordination
takes time!  We are expecting the internship coordinator from the United
Negro College Fund Special Programs to visit on Thursday from Virginia.
I booked a conference room on site and prepared a short Powerpoint that
Cherylin and I can show to him.  we’ll give him a tour of the compound
and show him our progress on the projects.  Tomorrow we are going to
visit Uranium Leasing Program sites with a few contractors.  Our day
will start at 6:30 tomorrow morning.  Yippee!  Next week we are supposed
to visit Shiprock and Monument Valley in New Mexico.  For fun, my roomie
and I are also going rock hounding this weekend!  I haven’t done that
before, but I hope I find something neat.

Good Ol’ Rifle

It was great to be able to participate in research at the Old Rifle
site.  I met the PI, Dr. Phil Long.  Information about the research
being conducted there can be found at

I was able to help with grabbing soil samples in the “field lab” bags.
The microbes that the team is looking at are anaerobic so when the core
samples surface, it is necessary to keep their environment anoxic.  This
starts with an inert gas (such as helium or argon) being pumped into the
plastic soil sample bags and then the cores are dropped from the drill
rig bit into the bags.  The bags are transported to the trailer and
placed in the “field lab” bags.  Inert gas is pumped into these and we
are ready to get our nitrile gloves dirty!  This was the first time I
had the chance to help out with research conducted by a national lab.  I
also had the opportunity to help with photographing the core samples.
It wasn’t exactly glorious work, but it had to be done.  I am glad to be
back in an air conditioned office!  I’m finally able to post pictures.

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Ah, Utah.  A state that must have an exclamation mark follow its name on license plates.  It is almost like a new proclamation of joy or excitement….Utah!

Anyways, Cherylin (my roomie/fellow intern) and I accompanied a federal employee (and site manager) to Monticello, UT.  It was there that we witnessed the not-so-common event of old mill tailings transport.  This time the DOE site manager donned the hat of “oversight safety officer.”  It was great to see many lessons learned in my industrial hygiene class at work.  She had a document called a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) that all workers had to read and adhere to.

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