Photo: Lake Keowee spill gates courtesy of Kelsey Bushelman
This summer, a few of our nuclear interns are writing about their time at Duke Energy. We asked them to reflect on their most interesting experiences as interns so far. For an introduction to our interns, you can read the first article in this series here.
Each year, my projects have focused on finding standardizations across the fleet that could save resources, but how that is achieved has varied from year to year. I’m thankful for the variety of my projects, which have allowed me to understand many different parts of the business.
Although my projects are engineering-related, the most interesting experience was attending the Duke Energy North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) annual chapter conference in Charlotte. NAYGN gives employees the opportunity to discover more about the nuclear industry, build connections with peers, and volunteer to teach others about nuclear energy. This year, we volunteered to teach children about nuclear energy and played a nuclear-themed board game created by a Duke Energy employee. The game allowed us to have a good time while getting to know our peers. I’m looking forward for more opportunities through outreach and my projects to grow professionally.
My various intern experiences have allowed me to try something new every day. At Brunswick, my primary roles involved health monitoring and trending, as well as matching system development. These assignments taught a lot about the design and function of the basic systems in the plant. This summer at Harris, I am interning in Mechanical Design and Rapid Response, which involves calculations for large design projects and engineering support for system modifications. My main project has been a challenging assignment, but I have really enjoyed applying fluid mechanic principles and learning about the Engineering Change process.
The scope of all of my projects has been different, but I have learned just how much support is needed from all groups at a plant. Understanding this holistic perspective has allowed me to approach my work in a more open and safe way and challenged me to stay focused on my projects.
With the first half of my internship at Robinson in the books, I am becoming increasingly more familiar with the software programs and network of individuals necessary to complete engineering tasks.
I was recently asked to develop a plan to supply air to the intake structure. The goal of this assignment was to create a cost-efficient strategy that safely provided the necessary air pressure to operate service water equipment. Through navigating the software and asking a multitude of procedural questions, I began to understand the process of creating and gaining approval of a long-range plan. Once the item is approved, I hope to see progress on this project that I can call my own.
This project has been an excellent learning opportunity because I was able to start from scratch and develop a solution to a real plant issue. I look forward to receiving more opportunities to make an impact at Robinson and to further my knowledge and experience in the workplace.
One of the interesting experiences I have had as an intern was attending a class, “Systems for Interns: The Crash Course.” The course traced the entire process from the outlet on the wall back to the nuclear power plant and the different systems associated along the way. The instructors kept the audience interested and entertained while also teaching a wide variety of subjects. I learned about transformers, transmission lines, steam turbines, pumps and nuclear reactors, just to name a few things.
Having this course at the start of my internship was very beneficial and helped me grow personally because it allowed me to gain an understanding of how each system works together to provide the end goal: electricity to customers. It also provided details on all of the nuclear specific systems, which I did not have prior knowledge of before taking the class. This experience got me very excited about my summer here at Duke Energy and entering into the world of nuclear energy.
One morning I had the pleasure of volunteering at the World of Energy, a facility that provides interactive opportunities for the public to learn about nuclear energy. A group of us helped children build chariot robots which they raced once finished. Helping and teaching others is something that means a lot to me, especially knowing that Duke Energy encourages and provides the chance to do just that.
Later in the afternoon, all of the Oconee interns had the chance to go see the spill gates, which allow water to drain from Lake Keowee to Lake Hartwell in order to control water levels. They do not open very often, so having the chance to see the sheer power and velocity that water can have was incredible.
Through experiences like this, I have been able to tell what is important to me and what I want in a career. I know now that I do not have to choose between working with people and working as an engineer. Not only can I learn from this internship, but I can engage and teach others. For me, that truly is the best of both worlds.
As part of my work this summer, I joined a civil design engineer while he conducted manhole inspections. It was a unique opportunity to go out in the field and see one of the systems I’ve been working on in the office. We joined maintenance employees who assisted us with safely gaining entry to the confined spaces. We checked the concrete structure, conduits and pumps to ensure their integrity and functionality. This inspection allowed me to see how two teams, Engineering and Maintenance, came together to perform a task as a single unit. This teamwork exemplifies one of the most important factors in the safe and reliable operation of our nuclear plants.
I also experienced teamwork while attending an Intern Leadership Development day in Charlotte, which was an amazing opportunity to meet senior company leadership. They shared their career experiences and answered questions we had about the company, culture and our own developing careers. As an intern, this experience had a meaningful impact on my desire to continue working with Duke Energy after graduation.