You know Dasher and Dancer, Prancer and Vixen, Comet and Cupid but we bet you never knew that Santa was a “Rad Ranger” before he was called to the North Pole.
“Back in the 1970s and 1980s, people used to call us ‘Rad Rangers,’” said Santa Claus, also known as Len Engel, of his time in the nuclear industry. “People were proud of us and what we were doing.”
Engel recently visited the World of Energy education center at Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, S.C. for a holiday event. There, he posed for photos with families and took note of all the gifts he was asked to bring to good boys and girls.
Before he began growing a white beard and responding to “Santa”, Engel enjoyed a lengthy career focused on nuclear radiation protection. He spent a majority of his time at Duke Energy’s Brunswick Nuclear Plant in Wilmington, N.C.
Engel, 75, graduated from the Naval Academy and worked on Navy destroyers and nuclear missiles. After he left the Navy, his colleague encouraged him to visit Brunswick.
“I went to work at Brunswick through a company that supplied nuclear technicians,” Engel said. “I enjoyed every bit of it – nuclear employees are a special breed of people.”
Engel used shaving cream as his first Santa beard during a holiday event at Brunswick.
“I couldn’t have a beard at work,” Engel laughed, “so, I used shaving cream. But, I was hooked after that. Imagination is everything.”
Engel worked his way up as a senior nuclear technician and, with his Naval Academy background, qualified as a nuclear engineer. He began to travel throughout the United States as a consultant for nuclear power plants.
While he spends much of his time as Santa through the holiday season, he is still very active in nuclear education – and, he’s just getting started. Engel spent time as an adjunct professor of physics at Aiken Technical College. At the same time, he provided oversight of the radiation protection program at the Savannah River Site.
He now focuses on teaching and training at the University of South Carolina (USC)-Aiken as the environmental, health and safety manager.
“USC-Aiken and the Department of Energy are partnering to build an experimental facility on campus,” Engel said with a twinkle in his eye. “I’m only 75 – I’m looking forward to see what the future brings!”