45 years of service
by Matt Allred, Star staff
(This article is reprinted from the lab publication LMITCO Star of August 1998. Now retired, Ben Hunter worked longer than any other employee at the lab -- more than 50 years.)
In May 1953, he walked out of the halls of Idaho State College (Idaho State University) with a bachelor of science degree in chemistry. The next month, he began his career at the Idaho Chemical Processing Plant (now known as the Idaho Nuclear Technology and Engineering Center): Benjamin R. Hunter — employee identification number 10052.
Four-and-one-half decades later, Hunter, who works as a staff chemist in the Analytical Laboratory Department, is still there. “Why should I retire? I like my job and I like the challenge.”
He attributes his staying beyond 45 years at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory to its excellent health care plan and other employee benefits. “My wife and I are also raising a granddaughter, and we need the income,” he said.
Hunter’s résumé tells of a person driven to succeed. It reads:
- “Developed a method for preparing dissolved fuel samples for uranium analysis by mass spectrometry.
- “Supervised the decontamination of the Test Area North laboratories following the Stationary Low Power Reactor-1 work.
- “Selected location, equipped, trained staff and supervised a radiochemical environmental analysis laboratory at Central Facilities Area CFA-633, in addition to radiochemistry supervisor duties at the ICPP laboratory.
- “Introduced the solid phase organic extraction concept for separating a variety of radionuclides prior to counting.
- “In 1992, upgraded the ICPP radiochemistry counting systems to state-of-the-art.”
A positive attitude
With 45 years to his credit, what does he say to those who come to work at the INEEL? “Dispel discouragement. Work hard. Accept work as a challenge. Treat co-workers fairly. Admit you don’t know everything. Get help when needed. Do what it takes to build a positive attitude for work.” Hunter says he never considers himself a victim of anything. He tries to be innovative and creative in his work and personal life.
He says successful managers are those who give their employees a challenge. “Tell your employees of the expected results and leave it up to them to find the way to achieve those results.” Everyone needs the chance to develop their talents, he says.
In his present position, Hunter spends all of his time working through departmental administrative jobs. His manager, Rod Hand of Analytical Laboratories, says, “Ben does more to facilitate the department’s work that any other individual. When he finally retires, he will be greatly missed.”
Gary Lusk, an INTEC radiological control foreman, says, “He is one of the most genuine, kind and thoughtful people anyone could ever hope to meet. It’s amazing to me that he's this way after spending so much time working for the government at this Site. Ben's willingness to help to get projects completed safely and on time is a major credit to his longevity at the Chem Plant. I enjoy working with Ben, but I hope that someday he will be able to leave this place and enjoy the better things of life.”
John Poole, consulting technical specialist for nonprocess facilities, says, “I’ve only known Ben a short while. After 45 years of service, Ben is still focused on ‘service.’ He is always helpful. He is always positive. He represents his generation and the INTEC spirit well.”
“The thing that impresses me most about Ben is that he has a unique combination of tenacity and professionalism that allows him to get many jobs done which would simply overwhelm mere mortals,” says Chris Oertel, Analytical Laboratories advisory scientist and engineer.
“He is such a genuine nice person that very few people will say ‘no’ to him. His vast knowledge of the INEEL and INTEC make him a great resource for people like me. We have all been amused by his many tricks, which help to add a sense of humor to the workplace.
“I would say that working with Ben has been one of the true highlights of my and many other people's career. He has been a great asset and role model for all of us.”
Hunter has seen the face of chemical analysis change from one of little paperwork to “spending more time filling out forms than in performing analytical work.”
One of his unusual memories is when the victims of the Stationary Low Power Reactor-1 accident were brought to CPP-602. Hunter says the three victims’ bodies were kept in ice downstairs at CPP-601/602. “We had to keep the bodies here while the pathologist performed his work,” he says.
SL-1 was an Army-designed portable reactor. On Jan. 3, 1961, three technicians were preparing the reactor for the next day’s startup. During the preparations, the reactor experienced a power excursion resulting in a steam explosion. Flying debris killed the three technicians.
When Hunter retires, he will continue to pursue his extracurricular activities. Some of his favorite activities are photography and recording personality interviews on videocassette.
Hunter interviewed and taped forensic scientist George Throckmorton, who solved the Mark Hoffman forgeries and murders. The tapes are not for public disclosure, he says. Hunter finds forensic science fascinating. He says if he had to live his career over again, he would work for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in its crime laboratory as a forensic scientist.
He is an avid reader of history. With the amount of time he has spent on the bus, he has read his favorites and then some. “I’ve read more than I can count,” he says. His library contains over 600 books. He is deeply interested is the Pharaoh of Egypt, Akhenaton, and his wife, Nefertiti. The Pharaoh reigned over Egypt about 1350 B.C.
Hunter says, “His reign is surrounded with so much controversy, that I would like to have dinner with him and his wife and ask some questions.” Other outside interests include his passion for gardening. “I love to experiment with different plants,” he says.
Regarding his relationship with his wife of 45 years, he says, “We do everything together.” He and his wife raised five children. They have 26 grandchildren.
Hunter describes himself as being pleasant, easy to get along with and having a good sense of humor. And this is perhaps what has carried employee 10052 through 45 years of service.