June 14, 2016
Aiken, S.C. - The cultural influences of Vietnam have flavored Tu Nguyen’s experience as both a first generation American and a Savannah River Remediation (SRR) intern.
Leaving behind extreme poverty, Nguyen’s parents emigrated from Vietnam to the United States in 1994 after being sponsored by his father’s brother, who came to America around the time of the Vietnam War. Nguyen said his parents came to the U.S. for the same reason many immigrants do – to pursue the opportunities afforded to United States citizens.
Nguyen was born in California before the family relocated to North Charleston, S.C., where they now reside. The first to attend college in his immediate family, Nguyen said his parents are very proud of his success at Clemson University where he is pursuing a degree in chemical engineering.
“I am extremely grateful for the opportunities afforded to me because of the sacrifices of my parents, including this internship,” Nguyen said. “Knowing that they overcame poverty, war, and acclimation to a new world has not only humbled me but helped me to understand the value of hard work.”
Though very close to his family, Nguyen admits that language was one cultural barrier that had to be overcome.
“English was never foreign to me because I was submerged in it from the time I was a young child,” says Nguyen. “My parents, on the other hand, worked long hours during the day, and took the initiative to attend night classes to improve their English.”
His parent’s long shifts, however, were not a detriment as much as they were a testament to their sacrifices and the importance of hard work instilled in him as a child. Nguyen said the success of his parents pushes him to strive towards higher goals.
Now a rising senior, Nguyen is contributing to SRR’s Process Safety and Regulatory Group, which actively monitors the chemicals inside of the Savannah River Site’s 43 carbon-steel tanks, which hold 36 million gallons of radioactive legacy waste. He is currently helping to create a database that will compile records regarding levels of this waste. The database will track trends in levels over the last 13 years, which will support a greater computerized system used for determining updates to safety measures, evaluations, and tank sampling schedules.
Nguyen believes the work being done in SRR’s Process Safety provides an essential tool for determining the safest plan of action regarding the waste inside the tanks.
Despite the fact that Nguyen and his immediate family no longer live in Vietnam, his parents’ experiences there have influenced the way in which Nguyen lives his life in America, in both his work ethic and appreciation for what he has achieved. Though Nguyen and his family have sought a better life in South Carolina, he still embraces his heritage, and especially enjoys his mom’s pho, a traditional Vietnamese soup.
“My parents understand that I am seeking something similar to what they pursued when they left Vietnam: a better life for myself and those around me,” Nguyen said. “They’re proud of my accomplishments thus far and are happy to see me succeeding in such a challenging yet rewarding program.”
SRR is the liquid waste contactor at SRS for the U.S. Department of Energy. SRR is composed of a team of companies led by AECOM with partners Bechtel National, CH2M and BWX Technologies. Critical subcontractors for the contract are AREVA, EnergySolutions and URS Professional Solutions.