Materials from SRS Help Prepare Future Welders

Staff Report

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

Thousands of pounds of scrap stainless steel donated to area welding education programs will help give local welding students a boost toward well-paying careers. Welding programs at high schools and
technical colleges in the region surrounding the Savannah River Site (SRS) each received 2,000
lbs. of stainless steel from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at SRS for use in
training future welders.

Welding stainless steel is a valuable skill in industry, but the cost of the material means that
welding education programs usually are not able to give their students hands-on training with
actual stainless. Instead, they train on carbon steel or other materials with properties that can
be very different and wait until they are on the job to receive hands-on experience with stainless.
“It’s going to give them such a leg up to already have this experience,” said Daniel Ball, welding
instructor at the Aiken County Career Center.

“Stainless is so different – it kind of has a mind of its own. Using this material, we will basically
train them up so they can be placed with employers like SRS or Vogtle. The sky’s the limit.”
The first delivery of the excess stainless steel went to Allendale-Fairfax High School in Allendale,
S.C. Welding is one of the more popular fields in the school’s Career and Technical Education
(CATE) programs, which serve approximately 200 students. The welding curriculum provides lots of hands-on experience for its students, but – like most welding education programs – no previous opportunity to work with stainless steel.

“We are so excited about the community reaching out to us to support our scholars in preparing for
their future careers,” said Mona Lisa Anderson, director of the Allendale-Fairfax CATE program. “We
make good use of everything that comes to our hands.” Chad Green, who teaches welding, is looking
forward to students being able to use the material to learn pipe welding and similar skills.

The donations are part of NNSA’s strategy for obtaining the greatest benefit from materials no longer needed for the canceled Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication (MOX) Facility project. NNSA and Savannah River Nuclear Solutions (SRNS) are working together to apply a rigorous review process to determine potential uses for the excess material and equipment, giving top priority to the agency’s projects at SRS and elsewhere.

The stainless steel was determined to be unneeded by NNSA or U.S. Department of Energy programs
at SRS or elsewhere, and available to use in a way that benefits the community.  Mark Hall of the SRNS department tasked with dispositioning the material and equipment first saw the potential the excess stainless steel held for welding education programs and, after obtaining agreement from NNSA, coordinated the donation program. “This is scrap material to us,” he said, “but it’s something the schools usually can’t get and could use to prepare students for really good jobs. Usually, welders don’t get to train with stainless until they’re already on the job. With access to this material, they can be trained and ready when they arrive.”

Michael Meyer, welding instructor at Evans High School in Georgia, plans to use the stainless steel
to allow his students to practice tig welding, and possibly mig welding as well. “This is the same
stuff they’ll be working on in the field,” he said.

“There are a lot of opportunities for kids with these welding skills.” He noted the employment
opportunities for skilled welders in the local area, including SRS and Plant Vogtle, but also the chemical plants and other industry in the area, plus the shipping industry just a couple of hours away in Savannah.

Donations were made to:

Aiken County Career Center

South Aiken High School

Wagener-Salley High School

Abbeville County Career Center

Allendale Fairfax High School

Barnwell County Career Center

Strom Thurmond Career Center (Edgefield County, S.C.)

Hephzibah High School (Hephzibah, Ga.)

Josey High School (Augusta, Ga.)

Evans High School (Evans, Ga.)

Grovetown High School (Grovetown, Ga.)

Columbia County (Ga.) Schools

Cope Area Career Center (Cope, S.C.)

Aiken Technical College

Denmark Technical College