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Nuclear Safety and Innovation: Alive and Well in Georgia

Jennifer Harrelson and Wesley Williams both work for Southern Nuclear at the Plant Vogtle and Hatch nuclear facilities respectively. Each brings their personal touch to the industry, helping their company develop its enterprise of sustainable, clean energy. Both took questions about their commitment to best practices in the industry, how they cultivate innovation and offer views for America’s energy future. From family bonds, to new safety valves, here are their stories.

Jennifer Harrelson has worked in the nuclear industry for four years. Prior to 2011, she worked in the Engineering and Construction Services organization of Southern Nuclear’s parent company, Southern Company. In her current role, Harrelson is the Engineering Supervisor at Southern Nuclear’s Vogtle 3 and 4 project, one of the major new nuclear construction projects now underway in the United States.
Jennifer Harrelson and Wesley Williams
Jennifer Harrelson and Wesley Williams

What is your job and why do you enjoy doing it?

HARRELSON: I currently lead a team of ambitious engineers as the Digital Instrumentation and Controls Design Supervisor. Our role is both challenging and enjoyable because we’re working to define the processes needed to place the first fully digital nuclear units into operation.

How are you bringing innovation to the nuclear industry?

HARRELSON: Some of the first digitally operated nuclear units in the United States are being constructed at Vogtle. Digital instruments and controls are used in a limited scope at other nuclear plants and are used fully at some fossil and manufacturing plants. However, we have to be innovative to ensure we have addressed every aspect from a nuclear perspective.

How does working in the nuclear industry affect your personal life?

HARRELSON: The nuclear industry ties directly into my personal life since my husband also works at Vogtle 3 and 4. We both have operating and construction experience, so we realize the importance of nuclear safety from both an operating and a pre-operational standpoint. We take our role as nuclear workers very seriously and realize that protecting the safety and health of the public also protects our family.

Why do you think nuclear energy is important to America’s energy future?

HARRELSON: Each type of energy fuel source has its benefits, and some of uranium’s benefits are that it is a clean, affordable and reliable source. In addition, Vogtle Units 3 and 4 are providing both construction and long-term jobs for those in our community. And once operational, the two new units will provide low-cost electricity to our customers. 

Vogtle 3 construction
Construction at Vogtle 3
With more than five years in the industry, Wesley Williams, a System Engineer for the Nuclear Boiler System and a Program Engineer for Safety Relief Valves (SRVs), takes pride in his job directly contributing to protecting the safety of the public.

Why do you think nuclear energy is important to America’s energy future?

WILLIAMS: Nuclear is high energy density, which means the amount of energy released in a nuclear fission reaction is ten million times greater than the amount released in burning a fossil fuel atom like oil and gas. So, the amount of fuel required in a nuclear power plant is much smaller compared to those of other types of power plants.

How are you bringing innovation to the nuclear industry?

WILLIAMS: I am bringing new innovation to the nuclear industry as the system engineer for the new modified 3-stage Target Rock SRVs. The new modified 3-stage SRVs have removed the corrosion bonding issues that were found with the Target Rock 2-stage SRVs. Hatch is an industry leader with the new modified 3-stage designs.

How does working in the nuclear industry affect your personal life?

WILLIAMS: Working in the nuclear industry has positively affected my life by being able to generate electricity safely and reliably for my family, friends and neighbors. I receive great joy in being a part of a company that is in construction phase of the first nuclear reactor in the United States in over 20 years — now that is something special.

Learn more about the Vogtle 3 and 4 project, including a fact sheet, current photos and videos.

The above post was sent to us by Southern Nuclear for NEI’s Powered by Our People promotion. It aims to showcase the best and the brightest in the nation’s nuclear energy workforce.

For more on this promotion, follow the #futureofenergy tag across our digital channels. 

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