Why three interns gave nuclear energy a second chance

This year, we had several returning interns to our nuclear plants. We asked a few of them to share what they learned from last summer that they are using this year and what advice they have for future interns.

Meet Kelsey Bushelman, Caitlin Golding and Andy Jones.


Kelsey Bushelman is a rising senior majoring in mechanical engineering and minoring in music at Clemson University, who loves all things outdoors, arts and adventuring to new places. She returned to Oconee Nuclear Station this summer, working with a new group, the mechanical design group.

I returned to Duke Energy for many reasons. I love the people, the work, the environment and culture, the job benefits and much more. My intern rotation last summer opened my eyes to the nuclear world and all it has to offer. I meet people every day who have worked here for many years and still constantly learn new things. It goes to show that as long as you accept opportunities and apply yourself, it is pretty difficult to get bored. The people are very encouraging and really care about you doing well not only as an employee, but also your personal life. Because of all these things, I enjoyed my time going to work each day last summer and wanted to return to continue that.

I learn new things every day whether it be how a something works to why a process is the way it is. I would say that because I had some of the basic knowledge coming in, and have been able to continue my growth and better utilize the different procedures, information data bases and other resources. I’ve especially been able to network with more people that are knowledgeable and help me do my job well. The most difficult part about starting this position in my first rotation was getting my feet wet and taking in all the information to learn the basics. There is a lot to learn, and sometimes you need to know where to look for it. Just like any position, familiarizing yourself with how to navigate all the different resources available can take a little getting used to and some help from others. Coming into a second rotation having already learned the basics, allowed me to jump in full throttle into my projects.

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A nuclear engineering student from NC State, Andy Jones also returned to Oconee Nuclear Station. He is working with the same group, reactor engineering, as he did last summer, but with different people.

I am greatly interested in the industry side of nuclear power. In addition, I greatly enjoyed the environment and people I worked with at Duke Energy. This summer, I have learned a great deal more about the plant from a technical perspective. I have had more technical classes, which has allowed me to better understand how various systems interact. One of the biggest lessons learned last year was to make your work presentable in every form. It is not only important to get the project done well, but also to have your work understood by others who will inevitably have to use it in the future. If the project cannot be deciphered and modified by others, the odds of it being useful in the future greatly diminish. I have used the experience from last summer to better present my projects this summer.


Another NC State intern, Caitlin Golding, will begin graduate school in electrical engineering this fall. She returned to the Harris Nuclear Plant, working with a new group this summer, electrical design.

My projects this summer are of particular interest because I am focusing on power systems with my degree, but they also continue to broaden my understanding of the field. Protective relaying is a new area for me and I enjoy learning about the individual settings and standards as I validate each setpoint.

As a returning intern, there are several things I have learned that I didn’t know last summer. Expectedly, I am much more familiar with drawings, databases, how the plant operates, and (possibly most importantly!) acronyms. But also, I have a better grasp on how to get the help I need and when and who to ask. I have learned it is OK, and am actually encouraged, to be assertive and ask questions. Doing this has helped me validate what I have learned and correct any misconceptions I may have.

What advice would you give to future nuclear interns?

Kelsey: If you are even slightly interested, do it! This experience has been so beneficial for my growth personally, intellectually and professionally. Even if at the end of the internship you decide nuclear is not the field for you, there are so many transferable skills you will learn that can be taken and applied anywhere. Not only have I had the opportunity to learn so much, I have thankfully gotten to enjoy the company and people around me. As an added bonus, I have been able to work on numerous valuable projects and been treated with the same respect all other full-time employees are shown. You never know where a decision to take an internship like this can lead you, so take the chance knowing you will, at a minimum, walk away with more knowledge and experience than what you came in with. You may even find out you want nuclear to be your career!

Andy: Simply put: Apply. It is a great learning opportunity to work at a nuclear power plant. No matter what your future professional goals entail, there are many different groups, systems and people within Duke Energy to provide various learning opportunities in every field.

Caitlin: My time at Harris Nuclear Plant has encouraged me not only because everyone ensures the interns have meaningful work, but also that we get to see the plant firsthand and learn how the entire process works. My advice to anyone interested in interning with Duke Energy or at a nuclear plant would be to learn as much as you can about the various systems and how they interact. This growing knowledge increased my understanding of my own work and made my input to others much more useful. Also, as a student deciding my career path, I have found my time at Duke Energy has created a realistic sense of what it is like to work in the utility industry. This insight has been appreciated and valuable to me, and should be to any potential intern. 

Comments (1)

Posted August 03, 2018 by Iris
That is fantastic! Best of luck to you all!

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