Sara Dolatshahi

Sara Dolatshahi

Title
Nuclear Plant Control Room Supervisor
Organization
OPG
Location
Ontario, Canada
Sara Dolatshahi
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Biography

Sara Dolatshahi works at the Control Room of a Canadian Nuclear Power Plant, where select few people ever get to visit. Currently, she is the first and the only female Control Room Shift Supervisor (CRSS) for Pickering Nuclear Units 5 to 8, one of the world's largest nuclear plants. She has a Masters degree in Nuclear Engineering from McMaster University (Canada) and she has been working for Ontario Power Generation since 1999. She was holding positions of varying responsibilities before being selected for the CRSS role, which is an authorized position requiring a license from the Canadian Federal government.   As a CRSS, she is directly responsible for the safe operation of the plant and supervising a team of highly trained authorized nuclear professionals to reliably produce electricity.  Her primary role is to protect the safety of the public, personnel and environment.  She coordinates the activities of the station at the start of each shift to ensure safety testing and maintenance activities can be performed safely and efficiently.  She is also in charge of the personnel response during Emergency situations.  

 

Answers by Ms. Sara Dolatshahi

Dear Kolby,

Nuclear engineering is an exciting specialized field, which is not something you can pick up at high school or community college level.  Nuclear engineering is mostly used in jobs involving generation of electricity from a nuclear power source as opposed to other sources (e.g., fossil fuel, water as in case of a dam, gas, solar, wind).  It requires understanding of nuclear physics (study of interactions and phenomenas that happen at the nucleus of an atom involving neutrons, protons, electrons), thermodynamics (study of the relationship between heat and other form of energy (eg. mechanical, electrical, chemical)), thermohydraulics (study of how energy flows from one form to another), material science (study of different properties of material including their melting points, freezing points, etc), and many other specialized  fields needed to understand how electricity can be produced from nuclear energy.

As a result, it is essential that you attend a university to study nuclear physics and basic engineering concepts and earn a bachelor degree in either engineering physics, or nuclear engineering.  

In addition, a bachelor degree offers higher paying jobs and opportunities for future growth, even if you decide not to pursue your original nuclear engineering degree.  

This is because, a bachelor degree  not only broadens your knowledge beyond basic skills, it also demonstrates to the employers that you can learn, collaborate and that you are dedicated and can stick with a job. 

Hope this helps. Please send me a note if you want specific information about what I had to take as part of my nuclear engineering degree.  

Regards, 

Sara Dolatshahi, P. Eng.

I am sorry for the late response Nataly - I hope I am not too late.  

First off, I'd like to say that I am honored by your question and excited to see that you are interested in becoming a nuclear Engineer.  Engineering is a rewarding career.  It builds a strong foundation for anything you choose to do with it later in life. I chose to use my nuclear engineering background to help me run a nuclear power plant to produce electricity; a leadership role rather than research and development or academic one.  

Your science fair topic on a nuclear fusor is an intriguing topic, which unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to get involved in much. In a nuclear reactor we currently use a process called fission (as oppose to fusion), which is splitting a nucleus of a uranium fuel using neutrons to make electricity.  In fusion, the process is opposite.  The nucleus of two light atoms are fused together to produce a heavier atom and large amount of energy.  However, the fusion process has not yet been developed enough to use it on a large industrial scale. 

There are many good websites and publications that can help you learn more about fusion in general like: 

  • fusionfuture.net
  • US Department of Energy website on fusion
  • Plasma Science and Fusion Center(PSFC) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has good publications on plasma physics and nuclear fusion.  
  • coldfusionnow.org
  • And of course Wikipedia. 

Also, please note that there is still a lot of research that needs to be completed in this area before we can use them on a large scale.  We need people like yourself to help with this research and to make it happen - it is an exciting field. 

Please keep up your excellent work and feel free to send me a note if you have any other questions.  

Regards,

Sara Dolatshahi