Whether celebrating decades of working at NPPD or securing just a handful of years under their belts to date, a few things are clear: NPPD teammates have great career ambitions, personal connections, and an invested interest when it comes to public power in Nebraska.
Each week throughout Public Power Month, the Behind Your Outlet blog will feature four unique viewpoints regarding working in the public power industry from teammates with varying years of service. Here’s a sneak peak at Cooper Nuclear Station Simulator Supervisor Jim Florence, and 30-year career in public power.
So, what’s your job all about?
The function of our team is simple: to provide a training tool that offers operators-in-training realistic insight into nuclear power plant operations. The Operations Training Simulator at Cooper is like a flight simulator (except it doesn’t leave the ground.) The simulator is ever-changing; it must be an accurate portrayal of how the plant responds to normal, abnormal and emergency situations. Our staff uses this tool to continually challenge our operators under many difficult scenarios; we want them to be trained to be “always there when you need us.”
Any interesting experiences while on the job?
The simulator gets visitors and tourists from time to time, and I will demonstrate its capabilities, such as earthquake simulation (we actually vibrate the floor and ceiling tiles), sound simulation (various recorded sounds play on cue), and how the lighting system in the simulated control room responds to loss of power events. I place our visitors at critical watch stations in the simulator control room and tell them to react to what may happen next; usually a tornado is part of the scenario. I like to tell students to “duck and cover” during these scenarios. The simulated environment is so realistic that they actually do!
When did you first realize this was the job for you?
In late 1987, I was employed as a control room supervisor when I saw a job posting for a simulator specialist position. This individual would be responsible for oversight of construction and testing of Cooper’s simulator at the vendor site. My wife, Kathy, and I enjoyed our two-year visit to this part of the country while I engaged in the rigorous, technical project. This effort was one of my most enjoyable experiences at NPPD; it was a very successful project! I still enjoy the technical challenges of maintaining a nuclear power plant simulator; it’s like managing the power plant. We are operations, maintenance, information technology, engineering and work control wrapped up in a staff of four individuals and enhanced with great support from other departments.
How do you feel nuclear power has helped shape public power in the state?
The various methods of power generation in Nebraska are diverse; nuclear power is just a part of the energy mix we enjoy today. Cooper is one of two nuclear plants in the state, and unlike some other states, nuclear power is accepted and appreciated in Nebraska. Our rates are some of the lowest in the country, and we need to ensure they remain low to be competitive in our business. We will accomplish this by always raising the bar toward excellence in all that we do; being good isn’t enough. When we achieve goals toward excellence, NPPD can generate and distribute electricity safely and reliably, and Cooper’s simulator plays a big role in this effort by training nuclear professionals. In turn, we can keep the cost of electricity as low as reasonably possible.
I am proud to be a part of a rich, hard-working cultural heritage in Nebraska; making and distributing power for our fellow Nebraskans is rewarding. It is our responsibility to continue this tradition and pass it on to the next generation of Nebraskans!
Search our current job openings to see if there is a career at NPPD waiting for you!