Our Voice: Grateful to be home to so much science, technology

Research and technology have been a driving force in the Tri-Cities for so long it can be easy to take for granted all the amazing developments and discoveries that go on in our community.

Every once in while it's good to reflect and appreciate how amazing it is to be home to so much innovation.

We recently got the great news that work can resume at the Hanford vitrification plant's High Level Waste Facility around the same time the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory marked its 50th anniversary with a companywide celebration.

These two happenings allow us a chance to be grateful for future work, as well as past technological advances that have changed the world. The science springing from north Richland shapes society, and today we are grateful for the dedication of scientists, chemists, researchers, biologists, engineers, laborers and others who make it all happen.

Back to work

It was a relief to hear that Bechtel National has been cleared to resume its work at the vitrification plant. Construction had been stopped to resolve some technical issues, but now Bechtel has a green light and can move forward.

The unique plant is being built to turn 56 million gallons of radioactive waste left from weapons plutonium production into stable glass so it can be disposed of safely.

While there are still concerns by the Department of Energy, Bechtel's assurances that it has a plan in place to address all the issues raised is convincing enough. The company now has permission to complete the design through production engineering and that's a great step forward.

PNNL impresses

The list of accomplishments from PNNL is astounding. When the company's 4,000 employees gathered recently at the Toyota Center in Kennewick to reflect on the company's contribution to society and its place in history, it must have been a proud moment.

It is amazing to realize some of the most exciting scientific discoveries and innovations in the world's history have come right from our backyard.

When Neil Armstrong walked on the moon in 1969, PNNL researchers analyzed the rocks he brought back with him.

When Mount St. Helens blew up, PNNL scientists studied the ash it left behind. When the Chernobyl nuclear reactor failed, PNNL scientists helped with the fallout.

In 1974 it was a PNNL researcher who figured out optical digital recording, which brought about the CD and revolutionized the video and music industry.

This is just a small sampling. PNNL has become a technological leader with no sign of slowing down, and the Tri-Cities is fortunate to have it here.