December 9, 2019

LOS ALAMOS, N.M.–Eight area students from Española, Chimayó, Nambé, Los Alamos and Abiquiú recently completed a program that prepares them to clean up waste sites containing chemical and radioactive materials left over from past operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The program has proved an economic driver that brings jobs with livable wages to Northern New Mexico’s workforce.

“Governor Lujan Grisham is passionate about creating an economy that works for everyone, and part of that is making sure we have pathways for people to get skills leading to permanent jobs,” said Bill McCamley, New Mexico Secretary of Workforce Solutions.

“The boot camp program for Radiological Control Technicians is a great example of an ‘Earn While You Learn’ pathway that lets workers earn a great job without leaving town,” McCamley said.

The Radiological Control Technician (RCT) Boot Camp Program is a joint initiative between Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos (N3B), the contractor responsible for legacy waste cleanup at LANL, and the University of New Mexico-Los Alamos.

Participants in the program are trained to monitor work environments for radioactive materials, control radioactive materials appropriately, handle emergency responses and perform decontamination procedures as needed.

Their work is part of N3B’s mission to remove waste from LANL while protecting Northern New Mexico’s natural resources.

“I want to make sure northern New Mexico is as protected and safe as it can be so future generations and people who love this place as much as I do are protected,” said David Abrams, 36, who recently completed the program.

“This place is my home, so of course I want to take care of it for myself and my neighbors. I’m helping get hazardous waste off the hill and shipped to the appropriate site while protecting our water, soil and air,” he said.

Matt Salazar, 28, from Española, also recently completed the 12-week program. Salazar worked an assortment of retail and food service jobs before enrolling in the boot camp program.

“In those jobs, I missed a lot of family holiday activities because I’d have to work,” Salazar said. “Since being with N3B in the boot camp program, I’ve been able to spend more time with my family and participate in sports again.”

Salazar added that he hopes to close on a home in Española in the next couple months.

“This job has helped me progress in life a lot in a short 12-week span,” he said.

Students in the RCT Boot Camp receive 10 college credits, paid for by N3B, after completing 12 weeks of classroom instruction at the UNM-LA campus, along with field training at various N3B cleanup sites. Students also receive paid compensation during the program and agree to work for N3B for one year after graduation.

On November 4, N3B and UNM-LA also launched a Waste Processing Operator Boot Camp to train students in the proper handling, packaging, treatment and documenting of chemical and radioactive waste.

Another batch of students is going through the 96-week Apprenticeship Program to become nuclear operators. This program is offered once a year in conjunction with Northern New Mexico College and graduates receive nationally recognized industry credentials, along with the potential for federal assistance like tuition support and tax credits.

Newport News Nuclear BWXT Los Alamos is a limited liability company owned by HII Nuclear, a subsidiary of Huntington Ingalls Industries, and BWX Technologies. N3B manages the $1.38 billion, 10-year Los Alamos Legacy Cleanup Contract at the Los Alamos National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Environmental Management, Los Alamos Field Office.

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RCT boot camp graduates

David Abrams (left) and Matt Salazar (right), recent graduates of N3B’s Radiological Control Technician Boot Camp, scan a drum containing transuranic waste to monitor its level of radioactivity. The boot camp is a 12-week program and participants are compensated for their work while earning college credit. Graduates commit to work for N3B for a minimum of one year.