As our world relies heavily on electricity, the generation of electricity must be continuous. Hence, the control room of a nuclear power plant must be staffed at all times. As a result my crew and I work 12 hour shifts (with other crews staffing the control room all the other times when we are not there).
My shift starts at 7:00 in the morning or the evening. I start by first getting a turnover report from my counterpart (i.e., the outgoing Control Room Shift Supervisor (CRSS)) on the status of the units and conditions of the plant. I am in charge of operation of four 540 MW nuclear reactor units and 12 direct reports who are highly trained Nuclear professionals that operate those units. However, there are many support groups (e.g., Maintenance, Chemistry, Radiation protection, Environmental safety, Security, etc.) that help us collectively generate electricity in the plant.
After 30 minutes of turnover; at 7:30, I chair a meeting with all the major players in the plant. During this meeting, I coordinate and brief everyone on their work and set the priorities for the shift and focus everyone’s attention on performing their work safely.
I don’t have an office. I have a desk in the middle of the control room, which is a very large room with each corner of the room, having the required monitoring panels to control a nuclear reactor unit.
Throughout the shift, I supervise staff testing the safety systems, I authorize fueling, I monitor for unexpected response and I remove roadblocks to get things done at work. I monitor, assess and initiate actions to correct and influence Main Control Room staff performance and teamwork to ensure that established standards are met and all conduct of operations is in accordance with approved policies and procedures. In addition, I ensure all work (operating and outage units) is conducted in a conservative fashion, such that personnel, nuclear, public and environmental safety are the over-riding priority.
One hour before my shift ends, I hold another meeting with the same people I met with at the start of the shift. During this meeting we review all the jobs that were not completed and the upcoming work for the next shift and any issue resolutions in order to set up the next crew for success. At the end of my shift, I turnover the responsibilities to the next crew’s supervisor, until my return.
The Control Room Shift Supervisor is a key leadership position in a nuclear power plant and is a requirement for those with career aspirations of advancing to greater leadership roles and increased responsibilities.
To obtain this job, I studied 4 years of Chemical Engineering and completed 2 years of Masters training in Nuclear Engineering. I also had 8 years of Engineering experience before applying for this position. After being accepted to this role, I had to receive an additional 5 years or training and testing, in order to fully understand and demonstrate my knowledge of the nuclear power plant operation. This is an authorized position requiring a license from the federal government. It requires dedication, commitment, and personal sacrifice to complete the required training and examinations.
This position is a non-traditional role (i.e., very few females). However, I am glad that I chose the path least-travelled as I find my job very rewarding. It challenges me to learn something new every day, be it technical or leadership skills including decision making, problem solving, communication, composure, and work management.