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From clean energy to Hanford cleanup, local company helps improve community

PNNL’s Sam Harding (left), Percheron Power’s Jerry Straalsund (middle), and MCE CEO Fred Yapuncich standing in front of a turbine test.

RICHLAND, Wash. – Mid Columbia Engineering is a local small business, which started in Richland back in the 70’s to support the Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Action News met with the CEO to find out how this small business is still working to help improve and support the community.

“Mid Columbia Engineering dates back to 1975,” said CEO President Fred Yapuncich. “It has quite a history in the community with respect to engineering, fabrication testing, and technical services.”

Initially, this small business provided engineering designs to the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE) contractors at Hanford. Throughout the years, MCE has diversified and expanded to work with other local entities like PNNL and InEnTec to develop renewable energy technology.

For instance, one of their water project programs is a collaborative effort with President of Percheron Power in Kennewick Jerry Straalsund, PNNL, and the DOE to evaluate a high efficiency turbine (archimedes screw). It’s unique because of its ability to create electricity in irrigation ditches or very small drops in elevation. The project is funded by DOE (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy).

As an indigenous business, Yapuncich said MCE is proud to still play a role in the cleanup of Hanford at the Waste Treatment Plant (WTP) as part of the Direct Feed Low-Activity Waste Initiative (DFLAW).

“For example, for the low activity waste process, MCE is heavily involved in that with support through AECOM,” he said. “We’re proud to be able to produce such a rich variety of engineering designs, equipment and personnel to be able to support such a crucial and critical initiative for the country.”

One example of MCE’s projects, is their Low Activity Waste Pre-Treatment System (LAWPS) testing facility, which simulates a part of the chemical process that will turn radioactive waste into glass. AECOM was the lead on this project, and the facility is operating on behalf of the Washington River Protection Solutions (WRPS) and the DOE.

The LAWPS testing facility is a key component to ensure that what is deployed on the Hanford Site is safe, will work as expected, and meet the technical requirements of the DOE and WRPS.

Another, is a Large Scale Integrated Testing program, which has a transparent tank, allowing engineers to test and demonstrate the mixing of waste.

In addition to these waste treatment projects, MCE is also supporting key instruments to address the vapor issues on site.

“It’s very important to all the welfare of the community and we’re very pleased that MCE can play a role in that issue,” Yapuncich said.

He stressed that high safety standards, demand for detail, and oversight is woven into every aspect of their work.

“The bar is extremely high and it needs to be high,” he said. “This one of the most reviewed and inspected fields of engineering there is because of the issues and challenges that we take on.”

He said it’s important for them to be transparent about the safety and design challenges they face because it's crucial for people to have the ability to understand what’s taking place on site and how the science and engineering community working to meet those demands.

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