Father’s Day is a time to stop and think of our dads. We consider the impact they’ve had on our lives. Perhaps the smallest things have the largest impact. A lesson learned at a young age can steer one’s whole life. That’s how Alex Lanka sees it.
“Growing up I was always helping Dad. We built a log cabin one time. He had me laying floors with him. Laying bricks, mixing concrete, just following procedures at an early age,” said Lanka.
Alex’s dad worked in the nuclear energy industry for most of his career. He helped design nuclear plants in the Midwest and even traveled the world evaluating nuclear plants as part of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), an industry organization that assesses nuclear plants and identifies best practices that are shared across the industry.
“Dad said, ‘Follow the procedure; do it right the first time. Take as much time as you need. But there’s no point in doing rework.’ That’s a big thing I’m still doing here in nuclear,” said Lanka.
Alex followed in his father’s footsteps, pursuing a career in nuclear energy. After graduating from North Carolina State University with a mechanical engineering degree and MBA, he worked for more than a decade in operations at a nuclear plant in Illinois. Now, he’s back in the Carolinas, working as a nuclear chemist at Catawba Nuclear Station in York, S.C.
“It’s great being back down South. It’s where I want to raise a family.”
Alex met his wife in Chicago, where they had their daughter in 2020. Back in the Carolinas, he’s close to where he grew up when his dad worked at McGuire Nuclear Station in Huntersville, N.C.
“I remember as a kid, Dad would wow our family with trips to the EnergyExplorium.”
Little did he know he would be working for McGuire’s sister station decades later. What he did know was the kind of father his dad inspired him to be.
“I saw how Dad was able to provide a good quality of life for our family and I wanted to be able to do the same.”
As a second-generation nuclear professional, Alex has a unique opportunity and responsibility. He gets the chance to continue his father’s legacy. The nuclear industry his dad helped design in the 1980s Alex is helping run safely for years to come.
“It’s part of my past, definitely part of my future.”
As a token of passing the baton, Alex’s dad gave him a small but meaningful gift when Alex started his new job.
“Sometime early ‘90s [Dad] did an INPO evaluation of Catawba Nuclear Station and Catawba management gave him the pin of Catawba Nuclear Station during the evaluation. When I got hired last July at Catawba, Dad gave me the original pin he received back in the early ‘90s, and I brought it back to Catawba.”
Full circle, father to son. Who will be the next generation of nuclear energy professionals?