RICHLAND, Wash. - Brad Brannan had to stop answering his cell phone after Washington River Protection Solutions announced this spring it would train and hire health physics technicians to work at the Hanford nuclear reservation.

A combination of the promise of pay starting about $20 an hour, good benefits and 26 weeks of paid training for the jobs had Hanford workers with access to his cell number jockeying to recommend people for the jobs.

Brannan, a radiological control manager for Washington River Protection Solutions, and other managers, received more than 500 applications. They interviewed nearly 100 people and picked 30 to train.

They are just a fraction of the 400 new Hanford workers selected in the first round of hiring with $1.96 billion in federal economic stimulus money expected to be spent by the Department of Energy to retain or hire about 4,000 employees at Hanford.

The majority of the new hires will be doing decontamination and demolition work for CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. As "D&D workers," they'll be paid a starting wage of about $17 an hour and receive five weeks of paid training. The minimum education for the job is a high school or general equivalency diploma.

Many of the jobs opening up at Hanford are inherently hazardous because of the nature of the work - cleaning up chemical and radioactive waste left from the past production of plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons program.

There's no guarantee of a lifelong career, however, in jobs paid for with economic stimulus money. All the money must be spent by October 2011. But many of the new hires are optimistic that the numerous baby boomer workers at Hanford nearing retirement and the decades of cleanup work remaining will give them a shot at additional years at the site.

Some new employees, like the health physics technicians hired by Washington River Protection Solutions, which operates Hanford's tank farms, should have careers at Hanford as long as they wish. Although they are being hired with stimulus money, work at the tank farms should only increase and there will be additional job opportunities as the vitrification plant begins operating in 2019 to treat the 53 million gallons of radioactive waste now held in underground tanks.

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