Hydrogen Safety Training to be Offered at HAMMER
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by Bruce Kinzey and Linda Fassbender, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
and Bret Akers, Volpentest HAMMER Training Center

Safety in all aspects of the future hydrogen economy is a major priority for the Hydrogen Fuel Initiative. Public perceptions regarding the safety of hydrogen must be understood and addressed in order for the hydrogen economy to succeed. Unfortunately, no system can be made completely safe despite the most concerted effort. Even with 100+ years of experience in using conventional fossil fuels, accidents and other system failures still occur. Therefore, for any fuel, a suitably trained emergency response force is an essential component of a viable infrastructure.

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Volpentest Hazardous Materials Management and Emergency Response (HAMMER) Training and Education Center opened its doors in September 1997 to ensure safety in materials handling and transfer activities at the DOE Hanford nuclear reservation. HAMMER offers multiple facilities for various types of training, including classroom sessions as well as extensive hands-on live burn props such as the propane tank shown in the accompanying photo. HAMMER currently provides about 50,000 person-days per year of training in different areas of safety and national security.

In keeping with the anticipated needs of a future hydrogen economy, the addition of a hydrogen safety training capability is underway at HAMMER. Planned activities include classroom education and, ultimately, life-sized prop training capabilities that will include a number of additional props devoted specifically to hydrogen safety (e.g., a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, a hydrogen fueling station). These props will be representative of a variety of possible hydrogen release scenarios in order to teach the basic procedures of appropriate emergency response to the various audiences that need them.

Hydrogen Safety at HAMMER will employ the OSHA-developed four-tiered framework for hazardous materials emergency response training that includes Awareness, Operations, Technician, and Specialist levels. Activities in FY 2005 will review existing hydrogen safety training courses for material that could be utilized in the new Hydrogen Awareness-level safety training course for fire fighters, develop the Awareness-level curriculum, and conduct one pilot classroom session.

The HAMMER site is to be a national focal point for hydrogen safety training activities, involving the collaboration of numerous agencies from both the public and the private sectors. HAMMER is thereby destined to make a key contribution to safe implementation of the future hydrogen economy.

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