FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE |Contact:  Michael Butler |  (704) 779-1844

Monday, February 28, 2022  


RICHLAND, Washington – Imagine a training exercise where you have to follow clues, complete a series of specialized tasks, and “escape” from an enclosed room before your air supply runs out.

It’s just one of many real-life scenarios students confront at the Volpentest Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response – HAMMER, for short – training center at the Department of Energy’s Hanford nuclear site in Washington State.

HAMMER Director Paul Vandervert described the training program in the February 28 episode of the Gone Fission Nuclear Report, a weekly podcast that features news from the Department of Energy’s Environmental Management program nationwide. Hosted by Michael Butler, the episode is available on all podcast platforms and can be accessed at

“Since its inception 25 years ago, HAMMER has emphasized providing high quality training that is focused on realism and retention,” Vandervert said. “Once workers receive our training and go back out into the field, we want to be sure their training sticks, so when they encounter challenges, they’ll be very well prepared.

Vandervert said HAMMER is a national and regional training asset that serves other DOE, state, regional, and national needs in such areas as disaster recovery, emergency response, transportation, fire protection, law enforcement, and military readiness. It also has a global reach, having trained hundreds of border security officials from more than 70 countries under the sponsorship of the U.S. State Department.

Situated on an 88-acre state-of-the-art campus on the edge of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, HAMMER trainers utilize hands-on, performance-based training techniques, including props that allow students to train in a realistic but controlled and safe environment. HAMMER’s training props are configured to create a variety of scenarios ranging from handling hazardous materials to radiation exposure, industrial hazards and workplace accidents.

A new respiratory protection course at the Hanford Site’s Volpentest HAMMER Federal Training Center features an “escape room” with an engaging twist: employees wear supplied air equipment while they answer questions, discover clues and solve puzzles in a simulated work environment.

They’re under pressure to “escape” or complete the activity safely in a limited amount of time before their air bottles empty. The simulation helps the employees learn the limitations, advantages and disadvantages of respiratory protection equipment.

Other training scenarios are carried out in facilities like the Search and Burn Building, a 5,235-foot three-story structure which provides realistic training in total darkness or low-light environments.  A six-story tower with multiple floor plans and interior and exterior stairways is used for hose and ladder drills, rappelling, incident response and fall protection training.

HAMMER is managed by Hanford Mission Integration Solutions, a partnership of Leidos, Centerra and Parsons with North Wind Solutions as a key subcontractor.

The Gone Fission Nuclear Report covers the latest developments in environmental cleanup across the Department of Energy (DOE) complex. DOE is now engaged in the largest environmental remediation program in history, cleaning up nuclear production sites across the U.S. that were used to support national security missions for 75 years.

“Some of the work on these sites dates back to the super-secret Manhattan Project, a national priority to develop the first atomic bomb that helped end World War II,” Butler said. “Cleanup of these sites is a multi-decade effort, requiring thousands of trained professionals and highly skilled crafts people with budgets in the billions of dollars.”