Interview with the . . . Nuclear Engineer

To catch a glimpse of the field of nuclear engineering from a real engineer's point of view, we interviewed Mr. Bill Cline, located in Newnan, Georgia. The following is a report of our questions followed by his answers.

1. What inspired you to become a nuclear engineer?

In the early 60's, funds were made available by the US Atomic Energy Commission to pursue careers in nuclear energy. I received a graduate research assistantship at Georgia Institute of Technology to study nuclear engineering.

2. Where did you study and what was your first job in nuclear engineering?

I received a BS in Chemistry/ Math (1967) from Jacksonville State University and a
MS in Nuclear Engineering (1969) from Georgia Tech.
My first job as a Nuclear Engineer was with the US Tennessee Valley Authority(TVA). I was involved in the design of nuclear power plants.

3. When did you begin work as an engineer?

From 1969 to 1971, I worked as a US Army Nuclear Effects Engineer; in 1972, I worked for the US TVA as a nuclear design engineer. In 1974, I began work as a Nuclear Engineer and Branch Mangager for teh US Regulatory Commission (USNRC), and I maintained that title until 1995, the year I retired.

4. What type of work did you perform and how did it affect the community? Could you briefly describe some everyday experiences? Were there such things as "everyday experiences" or were different tasks performed daily?

With USNRC, I conducted safety inspections of nuclear power plants and commercial and medical uses of nuclear materials. Inspection insured that nuclear operations/licensees complied with applicable safety, health, and environmental standards.

Inspection tasks varied and included activities such as inspection of rad waste processing, physical security, emergency planning, environmental monitoring, and health physics practices.

5. What kind of safety hazards did you face while on the job? What kind of protection did you utilize?

Work involved exposure to radiation and radioactive material. Protective measures were used as appropriate – to include radiation dosimetry, anti-contamination clothing, and respiratory protection.

6. What kind of people did you work with, and what other kinds of engineers did you interact with?

Nuclear engineers, mainly. Others included healthy physicists, chemists, mechanical engineers, and chemical engineers.

7. Were you ever required to travel/ did you ever have travel opportunities?

I traveled to all nuclear plants in Southeast US, to nuclear material users in Puerto Rico, and to the Virgin Islands.

8. Did you ever have to directly become involved in international dealings (or, if indirectly, to what extent)?

Yes; I coordinated responses to an incident involving two German scientists who had arrived at a Florida nuclear plant with radiological contamination. I also directed responses for the recovery of a radioactive material source at the University of Virgin Islands following Hurricane Hugo and briefed a Russian scientist on emergency planning and nuclear power plant security following the Chernobyl Plant accident.

9. Were you surprised in any way when you actually started working? That is, did you find some things completely different from how you had initially expected they would be?

Work was very demanding-- more than I had expected it would be. There were hardly any routine days, and 10-12 hour days were common. During responses to incidents, workdays often exceeded 24 hours!

10. What do you think might have been one of the greater problems or issues you encountered throughout your years of work?

I once managed a response and investigative team for a nuclear criticality incident at a nuclear fuel plant . . .

11. Can you think of a memorable experience, event, or any interesting (even bizarre!) facts you came across during your engineering years?

I responded to a nuclear power plant emergency where a utility truck backed into a utility pole, and the utility pole fell in the plant electrical switch yard and damaged transformers. The plant lost “offsite power” and went into an emergency condition known as a “site area emergency”.

12. How do you feel about the progress of nuclear power usage today?

Nuclear power is still a potential energy option. It is not being utilized due to high construction costs and regulatory uncertainty.

13. Are there any words of widowm you would give to prospective nuclear engineers?

There are still a number of interesting and challenging career fields in nuclear energy. This is likely to increase if we decide to build new nuclear power plants or if fusion energy materializes.


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