Illuminating the bright future of nuclear energy through employee advocates

Although there are a number of ways to reach operational goals and achieve Duke Energy’s net-zero carbon emission target, we cannot achieve these milestones without engaged employees leading the way. 

We asked employees their thoughts on nuclear energy and share how they are advocating for nuclear energy to help expand their awareness.

What do you feel is the biggest benefit of nuclear energy? 

Lois Arasim: The biggest benefit of nuclear energy is how well it complements renewables like solar and wind. Nuclear as a clean baseload energy source, together with other carbon-free sources, is essential for the future of our energy system and our carbon emission goals. 

Amy Hill: The biggest benefit of nuclear energy is how reliable it is. We operate our plants 24/7 shutting down for less than a month every year and a half to two years to refuel and maintain equipment. That reliability is unparalleled right now in the carbon-free energy sector, allowing us to offer baseload generation while other technologies are available to easily handle the peak electricity demands. 

Margie Barnes: Nuclear energy is a reliable, low-cost energy source with zero carbon emissions. Additionally, it’s an essential part of the energy portfolio for the future in response to climate change and greenhouse gas emissions. 

Candice Jones-McCall: By far, sustainability. You would be hard pressed to find a cleaner, more reliable source of energy in the abundance nuclear supplies...With research and development projects in molten salt reactors, microreactors, thorium fuel sources and more, nuclear energy has seemingly endless potential in keeping power flowing for decades to come. Considering the rate of demand and consumption across the world, one simply cannot conceive an energy future without nuclear playing a prominent role.

Nuclear is needed for a brighter future. In your own opinion, could you please share which aspects of nuclear energy are most important to you? 

Amy Hill: I think that nuclear being a reliable source of energy that is both a carbon-free energy source and powerful (one fuel pellet equates to one ton of coal) are all equally important because they work together to accomplish the same great benefit of nuclear energy – always on, clean power.

The stored energy available in the fuel we use is truly awesome compared to all other generation sources, and that’s what allows us to operate for a year and a half to two years without shutting down making us a reliable energy source. The fact that the process of fission, or splitting atoms into pieces, has zero carbon emissions makes it even better!

Jack Lemmer: The combination of carbon-free and reliable is nuclear power's unique niche, considering hydro is location-dependent, and those form the business case for the technology. 

Elizabeth Young: Nuclear power plants operate at 100% power more than 90% of the time. Nuclear plants can produce enormous amounts of carbon free electricity over long periods (60 years or more). 

Why is expanding people’s knowledge and awareness of nuclear energy important? 

Jess Link: Nuclear energy production is complicated. The basics of how it works is at an atomic level that cannot be seen. So radiation can become a sort of “boogeyman” to some. But if we can teach people about the multiple layers of safety and precautions we have in place to make this fantastic energy source available, then maybe we can help reveal that we're capable of managing this great power. 

Elizabeth Young: It is important to debunk the myths and misconceptions people have about nuclear energy so that they can understand the very important role nuclear energy plays in our electricity mix. There are two high-profile issues associated with nuclear energy: accidents (e.g., ChernobylFukushima) and the disposal of nuclear “waste.” It is important to expand people’s knowledge of nuclear energy and these issues, so that people understand how these types of accidents have been addressed in the U.S., and to move the discussion forward on used nuclear fuel

Lois Arasim: I think it’s important to educate people on the value of nuclear energy. Nuclear energy is necessary for our clean energy future and if people understand it more, I think they’ll realize the same. 

In your own words, share with us how you advocate for nuclear energy or volunteer in our communities. 

Lois Arasim: I advocate for nuclear energy through my role with NAYGN (North American Young Generation in Nuclear) and through my daily life. When I tell people what I do for a living I often get a lot of skepticism and questions. Putting a face to an industry that someone doesn't know much about helps them to understand its importance and make it more personal. Volunteering through NAYGN I am also able to reach out and educate kids in the community through our children's book and events such as Introduce a Girl to Engineering day. It's great to be able to interact with the next generation of nuclear advocates! 

Margie Barnes: I work within an organization named U.S. WIN (U.S. Women In Nuclear), who work in nuclear energy and technology fields around the United States. Our vision is aimed at positioning the United States for the future of nuclear energy and technology through the advancement of women and men. One of our objectives is to enhance understanding and awareness of the value of nuclear energy and technology. At a local level our company promotes volunteerism within the communities that we live. Women in Nuclear has sponsored a virtual back-to-school drive, we volunteer to be judges at science fairs, we host boy and girl scouts that are trying to attain their nuclear science badges, and our company promotes giving to non-profits that support our communities. 

Candice Jones-McCall: I have spent a lot of time volunteering at my children's elementary school, participated in career days, served on the schools’ parent, teacher, student team, volunteered at various events at the World of Energy and more. In total, I have volunteered over 691 hours of time and helped donate over $6,000 to the elementary school through the Hours4Good program during the six and a half years I have worked for Duke Energy. Outside of community volunteering, I always enjoy engaging family and friends in conversations about nuclear energy. After all, advocacy comes easily when it's a cause you believe in.

Jack Lemmer: I volunteer with NAYGN (a nuclear professional group), advocate to friends and family, and try to answer questions with anyone I meet who expresses interest or concern about nuclear power. Even within Duke Energy, it's easy to find people who are curious about nuclear, and it's simply a matter of making the effort/opportunity to interact with them. 

Jess Link: I'm involved with my site NAYGN (North American Young Generation in Nuclear) and WIN (Women in Nuclear) chapters. I’m particularly passionate about outreach to schools. I’ve taught ages from first grade to college about nuclear power. My hope is to inspire the next generation to become involved in the STEM fields. Our technology is always developing and moving forward, and the opportunities out there are just amazing.

Elizabeth Young: I am involved with U.S. WIN and am currently the Charlotte WIN Professional Development Chair. Prior to COVID, I participated in nuclear energy/STEM outreach activities at local schools. I talk with my parents about nuclear energy – after understanding what I do and seeing where I work and seeing how important the nuclear plants are to their local communities, my parents have become vocal supporters of nuclear energy. 

Our nuclear fleet’s vision is for engaged employees to lead the way with excellence to a cleaner, bolder energy future where nuclear power is a cornerstone of Duke Energy generation. Our employees are our most important assets to realizing our carbon-free future. In the comments below, share with us what information you found to be most interesting.

Lois Arasim - square

Lois Arasim is a Nuclear Engineer II in our Corporate Engineering Nuclear Fuels group in Charlotte. 

Margie Barnes - square

Margie Barnes works in our corporate office in Charlotte and is currently on developmental assignment.

Amy Hill - square

Amy Hill works in Nuclear Operations at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, North Carolina.

Candice Jones-McCall - square

Candice Jones-McCall is a Nuclear Station Instructor at Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, South Carolina.

Jack Lemmer - square

Jack Lemmer is a Senior Nuclear Engineer in our corporate office in Charlotte.

Liz Young - square

Elizabeth Young is a Senior Nuclear Engineer in Corporate Engineering Nuclear Fuels group in Charlotte.

Not pictured: Jess Link is a Nuclear Control Room Supervisor at Oconee Nuclear Station in Seneca, South Carolina.


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