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Kort Duce Blog bio picture


Born in 1972, Kort Duce has a Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Montana. 

For sixteen years he has been a professional photographer. 

Fort Collins, Colo., is home. 

Currently he is the head photographer for American Snowmobiler magazine and contracts with YAMAHA Snowmobiles. 

His choice of clean, simple lines and a bright color palette is no surprise to anyone who has ever visited the home he shares with his wife, Kortny, and their two kids McCall and Finley. "Our whole house is painted inside and out with vivid colors," explains Duce.  

Whether it be through photography or painting, his photojournalism roots have instilled in him the desire to tell stories through his work. 

"My photography showcases the reality of my life while my paintings are pure fantasy.  To me...they compliment each other," says Duce.  



Travel the world and you’re bound to notice chicken or eggs on a menu, a rooster crowing or walking alongside a road.

Few people realize the prominence of the mere chicken.

Chickens are the most prevalent species of bird in the world and play a role in nearly every major culture, be it cockfighting or dining. There are actually more chickens on earth than there are people.

I didn’t realize that until I started traveling outside the continental United States where chickens are housed on farms and most people see them in the poultry section of a grocery store.

In 2004 while on a photo shoot on Grand Cayman, my wife and I watched in fascination as chickens roamed freely around houses, roads and fields of the brightly colored tropic island. We purchased a brilliantly colored chicken carved from Jamaican cedar. It still reminds us of that shoot.

I painted a rooster piece inspired by that trip and the bright, happy colors my wife and I surround ourselves with in our home.

We later traveled to Hawaii and witnessed the same phenomena – chickens and roosters everywhere. It inspired a painting of rooster on a beach, patterned by what I saw in Kauai.

A trip to my wife’s aunt’s ranch in eastern Montana prompted even more.

A whimsical, cockeyed style was hatched – roosters and chickens painted in bright colors designed to make people happy or like us, remind them of a place they have visited or a time they cherished.


Recently I documented spent fuel rods from the Advanced Test Reactor (ATR) being transferred to the water basins at the Idaho Cleanup Project. CWI or CH2M Hill Corporation and Washington Group International (now URS) operate the Idaho Cleanup Project at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in eastern Idaho.

Read more about the Idaho Cleanup Project here. Or more about the Advanced Test Reactor here.

At the water basins they temporarily store spent fuel rods in a series of lockers located deep under water. The stainless steel pool is connected to several separate pool systems by a canal. This allows them to store different fuel types in different pools so there is not a reaction and subsequent explosion.

The water basins are 20-40 feet deep and hold about 3.5 million gallons of deionized water. Since being built in the 1980s the water has never been changed because it creates the shielding from the radioactive fuel rods being temporarily stored. The water is fairly clean, but is considered a radiation area (RA). The area surrounding the pools is considered a Radiation Buffer Area (RBA). One does not have to wear personal protection equipment (PPE) in an RBA. In many of the pictures the fuel handlers are donning PPE because they are in the RA. This PPE protects and contains potential radiation exposure because the handlers remove (doff) the protective clothing upon leaving the RA.

It is very interesting documenting this process. I have radworker II training so I am permitted to enter radiation buffer areas, radiation areas and contamination areas with proper personal protection equipment (PPE) without an escort. An escort is someone who must follow your every step and watch you. With an escort you are only allowed in RBAs.

Everyone in an RBA must wear a dosimeter to measure your exposure to radiation. Safety is the first priority. If people are exposed to too much radiation the facility will face large cash penalties and potential shut down from the federal government.  Not good for the contractor! So everyone errors on the side of caution and safety.

A ton of paper work, procedures and safety checks are completed to ensure SAFETY. Check one. Check two. Check three.

Plus one needs to be aware of your surroundings so you are not loitering near objects with high doses of radiation.

The worst thing… in my selfish opinion, is the poor light. High pressure sodium vapor lights with creamy yellow walls, yellow paint on all the equipment and personal protective equipment dyed yellow. A pain in the ass to white balance. Plus it is what I call “available darkness.”

Dark and crappy light. I would love to use my off-camera strobes, but I am told the infra-red remote and radio remotes are not allowed around all their equipment. Plus you are in an RBA so the radcon techs would have to survey everything out.

On a side note: Before leaving the facility my photography and video must be reviewed by a derivative classification officer with the Navy, since they also store spent nuclear fuel rods in the water basins. If there is anything classified from the Navy’s perspective my images would be deleted and my compact flash cards destroyed. Of course they would copy the cleared pictures before doing this. Also, a derivative classification officer with the Idaho Cleanup Project also has to review the images before they are released for external use. This blog is obviously considered external use.

A big thanks to the derivative classification officers for taking the time to clear these pictures.



Casket containing fuel rods from the Advanced Test Reactor.

Protective cover being removed from casket.

Casket with fuel rods ready for submersion in water basins.

Loosening casket container bolts.

Handling caskets containing fuel rods takes a team. Here the support team watches remote video cameras throughout the water basins and checks the procedures.

Casket containing ATR fuel rods being raised out of the water basin. Deionized water is being sprayed on the casket to contain any contamination to the water basins.

An overhead maintenance crane in the RA allows them to remotely lower the casket into the water basin.

Overall picture of the water basins.

A fuel handler uses a special tool to place a fuel rod in a stainless steel basket under 20-plus feet of water.

Video monitor showing the tops of the fuel rods ( a total of eight ).

Check one. Check two. Making sure the procedures are done correctly and safety is being followed.

Fuel handlers working in a RA must wear life jackets incase they accidently fall in the water.

A radcon tech enters the RA with the fuel handlers to check for high radiation levels. Here the radcon is measuring the radiation from a swab cloth.

30-foot deep water basin. Receiving pool.

Overhead crane in the radiation area.

Fuel handlers discussing procedures with their support team.

A fuel handler uses a special tool ( cable with hook ) to move a stainless steel basket to transport fuel rods under water.

Fuel handlers and the support team use multiple video cameras and monitors to watch and help with transporting fuel rods.

Fuel handlers place fuel rods and basket into a locker well under 20-feet of water.


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