Nuclear Professional Profiles: Reactor Engineer

Jenn
Reactor Engineer Jenn Saucier shows off her personal protective equipment before she starts work in the plant.

Jenn Saucier, McGuire Nuclear Station

In this two-part series, the Nuclear Information Center offers a glimpse into what it is like to be a reactor engineer. We asked Jenn Saucier, a reactor engineer at McGuire Nuclear Station to sit down with us and share a few insights into her role as a nuclear reactor engineer. Jenn has worked at McGuire Nuclear Station for three years.


Part 1

Q. What is a reactor engineer? What exactly do you do?

After three years I am still trying to figure that out sometimes. I guess the best way to answer this is in bullet form…


  • We perform tests and monitoring activities to ensure our technical specifications (licensed operating limits) are not exceeded and that emergency equipment will respond as required in the event of a plant emergency including the set points that would trigger an emergency actuation.

  • Monitor and ensure the reactor core (fuel) is burning as designed.

  • Create power maneuver plans for operations (this is basically creating a recipe for operations to get the plant to a desired power level).

  • Special Nuclear Materials custodians – We track and report on the nuclear materials we have on site.

  • Create fuel movement patterns – We create the paperwork which tells maintenance in what order and where to move nuclear fuel, both in the reactor core, the used fuel pool and when loading dry storage casks.

  • Perform inspections on nuclear fuel.

  • Write and review procedures – Written procedures govern everything on site from performing tests and operating equipment. As reactor engineers, we write and review procedures for multiple groups.



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In addition to the things mentioned above, I am also the equipment owner of the reactor vessels for both McGuire units. This means it is my responsibility to ensure that the reactor vessels continue to perform their safety function for the plant.

 Q. What does your work environment look like? Are you in an office or are you in the plant surrounded by pipes?

My work environment changes every day. Most days I am in an office environment. I have my own cozy little cube. Sometimes my time is spent in the control room, working with operations to respond to plant issues or performing surveillance tests. Some days require me to go to the used fuel pool - especially days when we receive new fuel for the next cycle. During refueling outages I spent a lot of time in the containment building. As the reactor vessel engineer, the only time I get to put my hands and eyes on my equipment is during an outage.

Q. Who do you work with? What is your team like?

My group is made up of six engineers and a supervisor. I would estimate the average age of our group to be mid-thirties, which is actually quite young - not just for groups across the site but also the industry. Five of us, including my supervisor, have been in the industry less than 15 years; three of us actually have less than five years in the industry. Five of the six engineers in the group have nuclear engineering backgrounds. The other engineer has a mechanical and civil engineering background. He owns the fuel handling equipment (cranes in the used fuel pool and reactor building, as well as the transfer system) and the dry cask storage system.

 Q. I bet you've seen some pretty cool stuff as a reactor engineer. What is the coolest thing you have ever done as part of your job?

I get to do a lot of cool things as a part of my job. Not many people get to put their hands on nuclear fuel; I do that while performing inspections when we receive new fuel, before it is placed in the used fuel pool or irradiated. I also do a lot of climbing around the reactor vessel during outages, another place not very many people, even those on site, ever go. I have led the evolution with operations to take the reactor critical (restart the self-sustaining chain reaction), the first step to making nuclear power. The list could go on.

 

 

Check back next week for the conclusion of our interview with Jenn.

 

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