A day in the life of a Nuclear Industrial Safety Professional – Part two

Welcome back to the rest of the story about Duke Energy’s commitment to health and safety of employees and a look into health and safety work activities at a nuclear plant.

 One of the benefits discussed about working in the health and safety field at Duke Energy are the many opportunities for continuing education and training throughout your career. Duke Energy promotes continuous learning and supports employees who want to attend industrial safety conferences and training sessions to maintain their qualifications and learn new industry safety standards.

 In the nuclear industry, there is no typical day in the health and safety profession. A day could start with a member of the safety team attending management meetings to gather information on an investigation related to a safety incident or a new program. Safety professionals may also attend various Pre-job Brief (PJB) meetings with teams as they prepare to perform work to ensure they practice safe work behaviors with every job. They also examine internal and external areas of the plant to ensure walkways are safe and clear of trip and fall hazards. Brunswick’s health and safety team continuously conduct job safety analyses (JSAs) which includes reviewing and walking down identified potential safety hazards for each job at the plant site.

Ted Smith, Lead Safety Professional at Brunswick Nuclear Plant, verifies correct operation of heat stress monitors to ensure worker safety in hot environments.

Ted Smith, Lead Safety Professional at Brunswick Nuclear Plant, verifies correct operation of heat stress monitors to ensure worker safety in hot environments.

The health and safety team also creates safety presentations to share with employees that show proper work methods or job hazards to raise awareness. Team members conduct regular field observations of teams from various departments performing day-to-day tasks in the plant. Safety is an important part of every department and team at a nuclear station.

 Ted, Mike and Donald said it is amazing how far the health and safety industry has grown and matured over the years. The progression in allowable events has diminished greatly. Actions that were once allowed, even as normal practice years ago, are not allowed today. Ted, Mike and Donald say they are extremely proud to work for Duke Energy, a company that takes care of its employees and promotes working safely on every task and every day. Ted went on to say, “Duke really cares about their people and constantly monitors work to make sure employees are safe and everyone goes home safely.”

 The team offered some parting advice for anyone looking at a career in industrial health and safety. While it is a growing field and demand is stable with many organizations in need of a safety department, it takes a lot of passion for people to perform the job well. A health and safety professional must take some ownership for safety related events that may occur and work to correct behaviors or workplace surroundings that may have caused the event. A person has to have a passion for the job and for helping other people. As a mentor from Mike’s past once said, “It’s not a job, it’s a calling.”

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Powerful Career Paths in the Nuclear Industry

Did you know the U.S. nuclear energy industry supports approximately 100,000 quality, high-paying American jobs?

And, did you know the majority of workers employed by the nuclear energy industry are non-nuclear engineers?

There are job opportunities across the country for folks with high school diplomas to those with doctorates. Nuclear utilities and other nuclear companies employ all types of workers to support their operations – from computer engineers and plant operators to pipefitters and accountants.

Types of Careers in the Nuclear Energy Industry

Engineers Specialists Technicians and Skilled Trades Workers
Civil/structural Accountants Carpenters
Electrical Analysts Construction trades and related workers
Materials Business management experts Electricians
Mechanical Chemists Engineering technicians
Nuclear Document control experts Heavy equipment operators
Computer Health physicists Machinists
Instrumentation and control Information technology experts Maintenance technicians
Fire protection Occupational safety, including radiation safety experts Millwrights
Systems Plant operators (licensed and non-licensed) Pipefitters
Project management Statistics/probabilistic risk assessment experts Science technicians
  Training specialists Security officers
  Communication specialists Welders

Of the 100,000 currently employed in the industry, it is expected as many as 20,000 new, highly skilled workers will be needed in the next five years to operate and maintain existing reactors. Several factors are driving this need, including:

  • New nuclear plants (one reactor creates up to 3,500 jobs at peak construction, and a new nuclear facility creates about 500 permanent jobs per 1,000 megawatts of electricity generating capacity – compared to 50 for a wind farm and 50 for a natural gas plant)
  • License renewal (73 of the nation’s 100 nuclear reactors have renewed their operating licenses and will continue producing electricity for decades)
  • Retirements among existing workforce (about half of the industry’s workforce will be eligible to retire over the next 10 years)

To meet this need, recruiting the next generation of workers is a major focus for the U.S. nuclear energy industry. Through the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program, the industry partners with more than 30 community colleges to recruit and train students in a standardized way for employment at nuclear facilities. The industry also focuses recruitment on students from universities, labor apprenticeships and U.S. military personnel – especially graduates of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear propulsion program – to fill specialized positions.

For more information on careers in the nuclear energy industry, refer to the following links:

Reducing carbon dependence with nuclear energy

No single energy source can meet all of our electricity needs. Despite the significant contributions from shale gas and renewable resources, nuclear power remains a key strategic energy source for the future to reduce carbon dependence and environmental impact. Nuclear energy continues to gain support in the global energy market and must be considered an essential part of our future energy mix.

During a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that President Obama “sees nuclear energy as a part of his carbon-free portfolio.” In addition, the administration wants to fight climate change by encouraging development of an array of energy sources that have lower carbon emissions.

Nuclear energy also helps address issues of air quality and greenhouse gases. It gives us clean, reliable, affordable power for the future.

Duke Energy operates six nuclear power plants with 11 operating reactors throughout the Carolinas. Due to the benefits of nuclear energy and the importance it will play in meeting future energy needs, the company has efforts under way to expand its nuclear generation fleet in the future if needed.

Duke Energy expects to receive a combined construction and operating license (COL) for its Lee Nuclear Station located in Gaffney, S.C. in mid-2016. The proposed Lee Nuclear Station met an important milestone on Dec. 23 when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued the report of no environmental impacts that would stop issuing of the COL. On Jan. 2, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control issued an approved Water Qualification Certification (401) for the project. The NRC report of environmental clearance and 401 permit completes the environmental reviews required to obtain the COL.

“The energy needs of our customers are significant over the next 15 years,” said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy South Carolina state president. “Our commitment is to meet our customers’ needs in a way that balances affordable, reliable and increasingly clean electricity, and this project will help us satisfy that need.”

Although the company submitted COLs for a site in Levy County, Florida and to add two new units at its Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill, N.C., plans for those locations have recently changed. In January 2014, Duke Energy ended its engineering, construction and procurement agreement for the Levy County site, but continues to pursue the COL as it remains a viable option for future generation. In addition, the company requested the NRC suspend its license application for the new units at Harris; however, the site has not been eliminated for future consideration.

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In addition to Duke Energy’s efforts to pursue new nuclear generation, energy companies across the country are currently building new power plants. Georgia Power, a Southern Company, is building two additional nuclear units at Plant Vogtle and are expected to be in service in 2017. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA Corporation, is also building two new reactors under construction at the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station and are expected to be operational by 2018.

As America’s need for energy grows, energy companies are working to determine the most efficient and environmentally sound way to meet the increasing demand for electricity. With growing concerns about air quality, nuclear energy continues to be an important energy source because it emits no greenhouse gases, provides clean and reliable electricity, and is among the lowest-cost providers of baseload electricity.

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