Skip to main content

Making Clouds for a Living

Donell Banks
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 and streamline many of our processes and practices. Vogtle Unit 3 will be the first fully digital nuclear unit in the country. That affords many innovative approaches to how we operate and maintain the plant. One thing that will never change is that the nuclear industry will always hold paramount the health and safety of the community we serve.

When I was a shift supervisor at Plant Farley, I was often asked exactly what it is that I do every day. My favorite response: "I make clouds for a living." This would generally result in a look of confusion on the face of the person I was talking to, but it would give me an opportunity to explain how a nuclear power plant works. It brings me joy to watch expressions soften as I explain the tremendous amount of electricity that we produce, how we produce it, and that the only impact to the environment is the release of water vapor clouds from the cooling towers.

As I transition to my new role in the Work Management organization, one of my responsibilities will be the implementation of a process to allow our work activities to be carried out completely electronically. Paperless work management is a common practice in other industries and will be a huge step forward in improving efficiency in nuclear power.

Delivering The Nuclear Promise to me means taking a very hard look at the way we do business in this industry and challenging ourselves to think outside the box. The industry has previously been stagnant in the area of leveraging new technology to improve processes. It can be easy to become complacent and settle for "how we've always done it," but for our industry to remain viable, we must evolve. The paperless work management process is a perfect example of this principle in action. Eliminating paper will allow work to be completed more efficiently with less potential for error and fewer resources needed for filing and archiving documents.

The above post was written by Southern Nuclear’s Donell Banks for the Powered by Our People promotion, which aims to showcase the best and the brightest in the nation’s nuclear energy workforce.

Share this nuclear ingenuity story with your network or to learn more, go to nei.org/whynuclear.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

How Nanomaterials Can Make Nuclear Reactors Safer and More Efficient

The following is a guest post from Matt Wald, senior communications advisor at NEI. Follow Matt on Twitter at @MattLWald.

From the batteries in our cell phones to the clothes on our backs, "nanomaterials" that are designed molecule by molecule are working their way into our economy and our lives. Now there’s some promising work on new materials for nuclear reactors.

Reactors are a tough environment. The sub atomic particles that sustain the chain reaction, neutrons, are great for splitting additional uranium atoms, but not all of them hit a uranium atom; some of them end up in various metal components of the reactor. The metal is usually a crystalline structure, meaning it is as orderly as a ladder or a sheet of graph paper, but the neutrons rearrange the atoms, leaving some infinitesimal voids in the structure and some areas of extra density. The components literally grow, getting longer and thicker. The phenomenon is well understood and designers compensate for it with a …

A Billion Miles Under Nuclear Energy (Updated)

And the winner is…Cassini-Huygens, in triple overtime.

The spaceship conceived in 1982 and launched fifteen years later, will crash into Saturn on September 15, after a mission of 19 years and 355 days, powered by the audacity and technical prowess of scientists and engineers from 17 different countries, and 72 pounds of plutonium.

The mission was so successful that it was extended three times; it was intended to last only until 2008.

Since April, the ship has been continuing to orbit Saturn, swinging through the 1,500-mile gap between the planet and its rings, an area not previously explored. This is a good maneuver for a spaceship nearing the end of its mission, since colliding with a rock could end things early.

Cassini will dive a little deeper and plunge toward Saturn’s surface, where it will transmit data until it burns up in the planet’s atmosphere. The radio signal will arrive here early Friday morning, Eastern time. A NASA video explains.

In the years since Cassini has launc…

Missing the Point about Pennsylvania’s Nuclear Plants

A group that includes oil and gas companies in Pennsylvania released a study on Monday that argues that twenty years ago, planners underestimated the value of nuclear plants in the electricity market. According to the group, that means the state should now let the plants close.

Huh?

The question confronting the state now isn’t what the companies that owned the reactors at the time of de-regulation got or didn’t get. It’s not a question of whether they were profitable in the '80s, '90s and '00s. It’s about now. Business works by looking at the present and making projections about the future.

Is losing the nuclear plants what’s best for the state going forward?

Pennsylvania needs clean air. It needs jobs. And it needs protection against over-reliance on a single fuel source.


What the reactors need is recognition of all the value they provide. The electricity market is depressed, and if electricity is treated as a simple commodity, with no regard for its benefit to clean air o…