Vivian T. Wagnon is an emergency response planner for the South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company (STPNOC) and has worked in the nuclear industry for 26 years. She is an active member of STPNOC’s Women in Nuclear chapter.
|Vivian T. Wagnon|
I am an Offsite Emergency Response Planner, working with the County of Matagorda, Texas and the State of Texas.
In my role with the county, I work with and provide support to our county’s Emergency Management Team. In addition, I provide offsite Emergency Responder Training to more than 200 individuals each year including local medical professionals. I am also the lead at the Joint Information Center (JIC) and I provide training to and evaluation of more than 84 ERO JIC members.
My role is the perfect platform to inform the public about our great industry; to put fables to rest and share the benefits and truth about the nuclear industry. I believe nuclear energy is the future, and I am blessed to have the opportunity to continue my life-long career in this industry. It is extremely interesting, I am continuously learning, and I am constantly being challenged. These three attributes of my position have kept me engaged every day.
Why do you think nuclear energy is important to America’s energy future?
Nuclear energy is vital to America’s energy future. That is not to say coal, oil and natural gas are not needed in the energy mix. They are, just like solar and wind; however, nuclear is the most reliable source of energy by far.
And, it is through the use of nuclear energy that we as a nation have reduced our carbon dioxide emissions by more than 30% resulting in greater air quality.
The nuclear energy industry offers great economic benefits. It brings in local and state tax revenues benefiting our roads, schools and other infrastructure. In addition, individuals working in nuclear energy are well compensated. On average in the U.S., salaries during site construction and for permanent positions are 35% higher than those in the local area.
In my opinion, our world will not reduce its dependency on energy and nuclear energy must become a greater part of our electricity mix. Nuclear energy is produced in abundance, and it is a very affordable source of power. We must move to a world of less dependency on fossil fuels. We must embrace carbon free nuclear energy.
How long have you been involved with Women in Nuclear (WIN)? What do you think of the organization and its purpose?
I served on the executive board of STPNOC’s WIN when it was formed in 2003. From that point on, WIN has been a large part of my professional career; I have held many offices and served on numerous committees. WIN has afforded me the opportunity to truly grow professionally, giving me an idea exchange network of knowledgeable nuclear workers in all areas of our industry.
A highlight of my time in WIN was mentoring a local high school student who showed interest and aptitude in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related fields in the STPNOC POWERSET program. My mentee became a part of the program her sophomore year; and we met on a monthly basis for three years. She has since graduated college with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and Physics and is enrolled in this fall’s Master’s Nuclear Engineering Program. She is currently working at STPNOC as a summer intern.
What is the greatest challenge facing the nuclear industry? How is WIN helping to address it?
I believe in our beginnings, we as an industry were not very successful in adequately educating the public about nuclear. We were successful in ensuring we met our top priority, protecting the health and safety of the public. Yet perhaps we didn’t address the public in a manner that demonstrated understandable and familiar context about the risks of nuclear power and radioactivity. We failed to give them the right story, and so they created their own: a story that was not complimentary to our nuclear industry.
I believe WIN is one of our industry’s greatest tools, a true catalyst to promote knowledge and understanding about our nuclear energy industry and nuclear technologies. This was evident this past year when U.S. WIN members expended greater than 13,477 hours reaching out to members of the public informing them of our phenomenal nuclear energy industry and the knowledge and benefits of the various nuclear technologies.
As our nuclear story evolves, we all should continue to impart greater knowledge about nuclear energy to the public and especially to the generation of tomorrow’s nuclear workers.