Skip to main content

Dominion’s Lisa Hilbert: Why a Fresh Perspective Keeps Nuclear Safe and Reliable

Lisa Hilbert
The following post was sent to us by Dominion’s Lisa Hilbert for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. Powered by Our People is part of the Future of Energy campaign that NEI launched earlier this year

This promotion aims to communicate innovation in our nation’s nuclear facilities in the voices of the people working at them. 

For more on this promotion, take a look at the featured content on our website and follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels.

Lisa Hilbert has worked in the nuclear energy industry for 24 years. She is currently the manager for nuclear outages and planning at Dominion’s Surry nuclear power station 17 miles from Newport News, Va. She began her career in the company’s mechanical engineering department, and held positions in operations, corrective action and nuclear oversight before joining the company’s Outage & Planning team.

What I do and why I enjoy doing it
Outage & Planning coordinates the preparation and execution of all scheduled work—including nuclear outages, when the reactors are shut down to replace used fuel and conduct scheduled maintenance. Although each outage only lasts a few weeks, planning for them begins more than a year in advance to ensure that all activities are performed safely and efficiently. My work is challenging and dynamic—never boring. I’m constantly learning, which I love!

Why I think nuclear energy is important to America’s energy future
Nuclear plants are the workhorses of America’s electricity generation system, and are an important component of a diverse mix of energy sources. Nuclear facilities operate safely, cleanly and dependably day in and day out. I believe that letting ourselves become overly dependent on any single fuel source would leave us vulnerable to swings in availability and cost, which could impact our ability to provide the electricity our society has come to depend on every minute of every day.

How I bring innovation into the nuclear energy industry
I am convinced that diversity in the workplace results in better decisions. I seek out input from people who are outside the mainstream of the nuclear industry. A fresh perspective, one not colored by “how we’ve always done it,” can open our eyes to creative alternatives.

What a typical nuclear plant employee thinks when he or she hears the word “reliability”
Equipment reliability is a key concept for those who work in nuclear power plants, which typically run at 100 percent power to provide reliable base load electricity to our customers. Plant equipment must not only be well maintained but kept up-to-date, to ensure that our plants can run for long periods of time. The preventive maintenance we perform during scheduled outages improves our equipment reliability and performance and helps decrease the need for unexpected repairs.

Some of the most significant projects I’ve helped implement to improve plant reliability include inspecting and coating the plant’s service water lines that ensure availability of cooling water for the facility’s nuclear safety systems.

We’ve also made modifications to the plant’s switchyard and safety systems in support of a planned high-voltage transmission line to enhance the reliable delivery of power to our customers.

For more on nuclear outage workers, check out the @nukeroadie’s article, "Nuclear Power Plant Outages ‘No Place for Cowboys.’"

Comments

Tim said…
Diversity seems to be an important factor for the nuclear industry like some many others in order to get a wide range of perspectives. How do you balance people wanting to bring in new ideas while staying on the path set by people who have been in the industry a long time?
Terry Herrmann said…
Great question, Tim!

I have been working in the nuclear industry since 1977. My experience covers the gamut of technical work including design, construction, testing, root cause analysis, system engineering, PRA and more.

One of the most important lessons you learn from being in this business for a long time is that you need to continually learn to do things better. A plant considered to have very good performance in the past would likely be at the bottom in performance today. That wouldn't have happened if we clung to "the way it's always been done."

I continually seek to learn and from people with a different perspective than mine. That said, there are lessons that less experienced individuals should seek to learn from those of us who've been around for a long time. Human beings are imperfect and we all make mistakes. When you've been around for a while, you get to know more about what things lead to those mistakes and hos to avoid them.

Popular posts from this blog

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks works at Southern Nuclear’s Plant Vogtle units 3 and 4 as a shift supervisor in Operations, but is in the process of transitioning to his newly appointed role as the daily work controls manager. He has been in the nuclear energy industry for about 11 years.

I love what I do because I have the unique opportunity to help shape the direction and influence the culture for the future of nuclear power in the United States. Every single day presents a new challenge, but I wouldn't have it any other way. As a shift supervisor, I was primarily responsible for managing the development of procedures and programs to support operation of the first new nuclear units in the United States in more than 30 years. As the daily work controls manager, I will be responsible for oversight of the execution and scheduling of daily work to ensure organizational readiness to operate the new units.

I envision a nuclear energy industry that leverages the technology of today to improve efficiency…

Nuclear: Energy for All Political Seasons

The electoral college will soon confirm a surprise election result, Donald Trump. However, in the electricity world, there are fewer surprises – physics and economics will continue to apply, and Republicans and Democrats are going to find a lot to like about nuclear energy over the next four years.

In a Trump administration, the carbon conversation is going to be less prominent. But the nuclear value proposition is still there. We bring steady jobs to rural areas, including in the Rust Belt, which put Donald Trump in office. Nuclear plants keep the surrounding communities vibrant.

We hold down electricity costs for the whole economy. We provide energy diversity, reducing the risk of disruption. We are a critical part of America’s industrial infrastructure, and the importance of infrastructure is something that President-Elect Trump has stressed.

One of our infrastructure challenges is natural gas pipelines, which have gotten more congested as extremely low gas prices have pulled m…

Nuclear Is a Long-Term Investment for Ohio that Will Pay Big

With 50 different state legislative calendars, more than half of them adjourn by June, and those still in session throughout the year usually take a recess in the summer. So springtime is prime time for state legislative activity. In the next few weeks, legislatures are hosting hearings and calling for votes on bills that have been battered back and forth in the capital halls.

On Tuesday, The Ohio Public Utilities Committee hosted its third round of hearings on the Zero Emissions Nuclear Resources Program, House Bill 178, and NEI’s Maria Korsnick testified before a jam-packed room of legislators.


Washingtonians parachuting into state debates can be a tricky platform, but in this case, Maria’s remarks provided national perspective that put the Ohio conundrum into context. At the heart of this debate is the impact nuclear plants have on local jobs and the local economy, and that nuclear assets should be viewed as “long-term investments” for the state. Of course, clean air and electrons …