Office of Environmental Management Intern Finds Balance Between Work and Outdoor Pursuits in Idaho

1 week ago

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho – Tired of big cities, Justin Arena exercised his own version of Manifest Destiny and headed to the West to begin an internship at the DOE Idaho National Laboratory (INL) Site, supporting one of EM’s highest-priority projects.

Arena, a senior chemical engineering student at Louisiana State University, applied at an online jobsite and landed a summer job with EM contractor Idaho Environmental Coalition (IEC) supporting the Integrated Waste Treatment Unit (IWTU).

EM is currently executing a confirmatory run for IWTU using a liquid waste simulant prior to beginning radiological operations this fall to convert 900,000 gallons of sodium-bearing liquid waste to a granular solid. IWTU is one of three liquid-waste treatment facilities within the EM complex designed to address the radioactive byproducts of historic spent nuclear fuel reprocessing.

“The field itself — nuclear science and nuclear waste — interested me,” Arena said. “It’s something I could see myself doing for a career.”

Although he’s only been supporting IWTU for three weeks, Arena said the engineers who support the program have been helpful and willing to accept him as a team member.

“I’m around a lot of knowledgeable engineers,” he said. “A lot of them are very willing to explain things to me and to include me.”

One of his tasks is to collect particle samples from the IWTU’s confirmatory run and measure the particle diameters. Based on extensive testing at the IWTU’s pilot plant at Hazen Research in Colorado, the dried particulate from the steam-reforming process should be about the size of coarse coffee grounds to maintain proper fluidization in the facility’s primary reaction vessel.

Like many interns, Arena likes to explore Idaho on the weekends.

“I like the openness, nature and mountains — the outdoorsy part,” he said. “It’s a pretty state.”

He said Idaho Falls is a welcome change from New Orleans, where he’s from.

“I like the small-town atmosphere,” he said. “I don’t like being in a big city; I like the area.”

Arena will support IWTU until August. He and the rest of the interns employed by IEC are required to give presentations about their summer experiences at the end of their internships.

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