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WEST VALLEY N-WORKERS TO GET HELP IN TRANSITIONING TO NEW JOBS

James Little sees lots of expertise at work at the West Valley Demonstration Project, and he doesn't want all of it to disappear as the project winds down.

"When you finish a job, you don't throw your tools away," said Little, formerly president of West Valley Nuclear Services, a subsidiary of Washington Group International that has a contract with the U.S. Department of Energy to clean up the West Valley site.

With that thinking in mind, Washington Group International has opened a regional office in Orchard Park designed to give some West Valley project employees a chance to apply their skills for customers in other industries.

Little is now president of Washington Safety Management Solutions, or WSMS, another Washington Group International subsidiary. The Orchard Park office is part of WSMS.

A handful of employees from West Valley Nuclear Services have been moved into WSMS, and will initially provide analysis and decommissioning plans for the West Valley Demonstration Project. The West Valley project has 458 employees, which is one-third of its peak employment.

Little said he doesn't have a specific plan for how large he wants the Orchard Park office, which will serve the Northeast, to become. He noted that WSMS has grown to 500 people worldwide since it was formed eight years ago. It helps employers develop safety and security plans, provides operations consulting and supplies start-up testing and commissioning services.

Its target business markets include homeland security and government agencies, along with commercial applications and universities. "There's an opportunity to kind of hang out our shingle here," Little said.

John Swailes, a Department of Energy official at West Valley, said he sees the WSMS office as a good way to help the employees at West Valley make a transition into new areas as the project nears completion.

"We're committed to the people," Swailes said. "The people are the most valuable resource."

Little said West Valley Nuclear Services has frequently used local small businesses in its work, and he expects that relationship to continue through the WSMS office's projects.

West Valley Nuclear Services since 1981 has served as the principal contractor at West Valley, which involves the cleanup of a former commercial nuclear fuels reprocessing center in Cattaraugus County. The Energy Department recently renewed its contract with WVNS.

e-mail: mglynn@buffnews.com