Ep 397: Brian Vangor - Author, Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant
Sarah Howorth [00:00:58] I'm Sarah Howorth. Welcome back to the Titans of Nuclear Podcast. Today, I am here with Brian Vangor, who is the author of Images of America's Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant. Brian, thank you so much for being on the show. We're lucky to have you here with us.
Brian Vangor [00:01:14] Well, thank you so much for having me. I'm honored to be on the show.
Sarah Howorth [00:01:17] Of course. So, let's just start off with a little bit about your background. Where'd you grow up?
Brian Vangor [00:01:24] I grew up in Yonkers, New York, and went to a high school there called Saunders, which was a trade and technical high school. It wasn't like a normal high school, like Yonkers High or Roosevelt or Lincoln. We had the choice of taking an academic curriculum or a trade curriculum. And I chose machine design. So for three years, I spent a lot of time in the machine shop. A lot of time breaking metals apart, and a lot of time drafting. The whole curriculum was geared to you becoming a mechanical engineer.
Sarah Howorth [00:02:03] And how did mechanics kind of lead you, eventually, to becoming interested in nuclear?
Brian Vangor [00:02:10] Well, that's a good question. I really didn't become interested in nuclear until I started working at Indian Point, believe it or not. I graduated from Manhattan College in 1979 with a Mechanical Engineering degree. And my whole Saunders senior class, all seven of us in machine design, ended up in Manhattan College with Mechanical Engineering degrees, so we all went in the same direction.
Brian Vangor [00:02:36] When I graduated, I went to work for American Electric Power in New York City, in Manhattan, in materials handling. When I got there, I found out they were planning on moving to Ohio. And everybody there was looking for a job. So, I ended up in the wrong place to start off with. So one day, one of my fellow engineers walks into my office and throws a piece of paper on my desk, and it said, "Nuclear power shift advisors wanted at a nuclear power plant 30 miles north of New York City." So, that was like the first thing I thought of, Indian Point. I knew it was Indian Point. It didn't say the name of the plant, but we all knew it was Indian Point.
Brian Vangor [00:03:20] And this was right after Three Mile Island. Three Mile Island happened on March 28, 1979, and many, many things came out of that event at Three Mile Island. The NRC issued thousands of regulations, new regulations that had to be followed by nuclear power plants with all certain due dates. And one of them was to have a Shift Technical Advisor. That would be a degreed person who would be in or around the control room around the clock.
Brian Vangor [00:03:54] One of the things they learned from Three Mile Island was the control room operators didn't necessarily understand all the thermodynamics behind what was going on in the plant. Up to that time in the '70s, most nuclear plant control rooms were manned by ex-Navy personnel, from aircraft carriers and submarines. Usually, no degrees. So, the NRC thought it would be a good idea to have a degreed person on shift around the clock as one of their requirements. They issued two large volumes of documents, requirements, NUREG-0737 and NUREG-0578. And in NUREG-0578, it required the Shift Technical Advisor. So, I was hired in the first group of Shift Technical Advisors at Indian Point 3.
Sarah Howorth [00:04:44] Okay. That's a pretty contentious time to go into the nuclear industry. Did you have any initial skepticism to overcome, or were you just all about getting involved?
Brian Vangor [00:04:57] Oh, no, I had no skepticism. In fact, they talked a little bit about that at my interview. But I had no skepticism. I wanted to learn something and nuclear power seemed very exciting. The one thing we did have to overcome was our acceptance into the plant. When we got there, we were brand new engineers. We really had no idea how the plant worked. And here we are walking into the control room, talking to these operators who have been doing this for years, virtually. So, we weren't well-accepted in the beginning. It took a few years for us to become part of the group, but we did.
Sarah Howorth [00:05:35] Yeah, that's great. In the book, you talk a lot about how close the community really was there and how it was kind of like a family.
Brian Vangor [00:05:42] Oh, it definitely was like a family. You spend 30 years or 35 years in that control room with the same people and the same people outside the control room, you definitely become a family. That's our second home. It was our home away from home.
Sarah Howorth [00:05:54] Right. So, talking a little bit about your book now, what's the piece all about? What inspired you to write it?
Brian Vangor [00:06:04] Well, I was the town historian here, where I live, in Carmel, New York, for five years. About ten years ago, I helped with the book The Arcadia Images of America book on my town, Mahopac, New York, so I was a little bit used to working on these books from Arcadia Publishing. And then, I just got the idea from a friend who knew that I had all these photographs and all these years at the plant, and suggested that I work on one of these Arcadia books on Indian Point. I applied, and after going through their board of editors, they decided to go through with the book.
Brian Vangor [00:06:44] I wrote the book for a couple of reasons. One, I wanted the people who worked at the plant to have something to hold on to in the future to remind them of what the amazing job that they did at the plant. Something they could have and look at and remember. I wanted to commemorate the plant itself. It was an amazing mechanical achievement and engineering achievement. And then, I wanted people who were non-nuclear to be able to pick this book up and learn something about the plant and see how hard we worked to make that plant as safe as it possibly could be.
Sarah Howorth [00:07:21] Yeah, absolutely. So, you have a historian background. Can you give us a historical snapshot of what a typical day or a day of your choosing looked like at Indian Point in maybe the 1950s or '60s or at any point during your career there?
Brian Vangor [00:07:42] Well, it was an amusement park up until 1956. Indian Point Park opened up in 1923. This June 26th will be the 100th anniversary of the opening of Indian Point Park, which was a pleasure park with mostly walking trails and picnic grounds and playgrounds and things like that. It didn't have rides and amusements until later on. But that closed in 1956 and the property was sold to Con Edison, who built Indian Point 1, which started operating in 1962 and ran until 1974. And then, they started building Indian Point 2 and 3 in 1966 and 1968, respectively. Indian Point 2 started up in 1974 and Indian Point 3 in 1976.
Brian Vangor [00:08:34] But as far as myself, I started 43 years ago, 3 days ago, March 31st, 1980. I spent most of that time, 35 years, in the Operations Department and 32 of those years with a Senior Reactor Operator's license. So, we spent a lot of time in the control room. And whether you came in at 6 A.M. or 6 P.M., it was a long 12 hours in the control room. It was a room with no windows and a room you couldn't walk out of. On a day shift, the phone rang constantly, and on a night shift it was pretty boring, hopefully. On a day shift, lots of people walking in and out. Maintenance people, instrumentation and control people, lots of tests going on inside the plant. So, 12 hours in the control room on a day shift was a very busy time. You look forward to the weekends because less people are there. You look forward to night shifts. It was a very busy time in the control room on a normal day shift for control and personnel.
Sarah Howorth [00:09:44] Yeah. So, you mentioned that the plant announced and began its construction in the early 1950s. What was the public's outlook on the whole operation? And at the time, the recent passage of the Atomic Energy Act as well? For first time listeners who are learning about nuclear currently, and to use the words of Brian in his book, "The 1954 Act allowed for private, peaceful use of the atom."
Brian Vangor [00:10:14] I believe that the surrounding community at the time, in 1956, was pretty accepting and wanting Indian Point 1 to be constructed. First of all, Westchester County was growing by leaps and bounds, and Con Edison was predicting a large increase in the demand for electricity over the next 15, 20 years. So, they needed power plants. And of course, the community needed jobs. And this was going to bring in thousands of jobs at the time and be a long construction project. I'm not sure how early on they knew about Indian Point 2 and 3, but even back in the '50s, they talked about building 6 units. We know that they built Indian Point 2 and 3. We know they were planning on building plants, I believe, close by in Verplanck. And there was also thought about building a nuclear power plant in Queens.
Sarah Howorth [00:11:06] Okay.
Brian Vangor [00:11:06] So, there were going to be a lot of plants, but I think, at the time, it was accepted by the community. It was a big construction project, and not many people knew about nuclear, pro and con, at that time, I believe. So, it was just another construction project, and here's something that sounds pretty neat, a nuclear power plant.
Brian Vangor [00:11:24] Growing up in Yonkers, as a little kid I remember my dad being interested in seeing what this Indian Point 1 was all about. And we got into our 1961 Ford Fairlane and drove from Yonkers to Buchanan, which was the ends of the earth back then. And I remember being in the visitor's center and looking out and seeing the dome of Indian Point 1 and thought that was pretty cool as an eight or nine year old.
Sarah Howorth [00:11:52] Yeah, that's awesome. And Indian Point did tours throughout its time of being open, too, for families to come explore and learn more?
Brian Vangor [00:12:00] There was a visitor's center which, really, was just removed a few years ago. You were able to come in and there was a movie and there were brochures and there was a back patio where you could look out onto Indian Point 1. And then, there was a second part of the tour, which I only found out about in the last couple of years, where they took you down into the plant. There was a glass room or an enclosure that you could enter and look out at the control room of Indian Point 1 and see the operators operating the plant. And I know where that space is today; it's now an office. And I've seen pictures of it, so it was probably the second part of the tour, which I didn't get to go on as a young child.
Sarah Howorth [00:12:40] Yeah, that sounds like a special experience, though, for sure. And then, switching gears a little bit, was Indian Point built on or near Indigenous land?
Brian Vangor [00:12:51] Well, we do know that there were Native American tribes to the north in Peekskill and to the south in Ossining. So, Indian Point is a made up name. Real quickly, the history before Indian Point Park was the Hudson River Day Line Company, which was the major steamship company from 1861 all the way up until the mid-1900s, 1971, in fact... By the 1920s, they were having a problem competing with nearby Bear Mountain, which was a very popular place to go. So hundreds, if not thousands of people would get on the boats every morning in New York City, come up the Hudson River. Everybody would get off at Bear Mountain and the boats would go up the rest the river empty.
Brian Vangor [00:13:37] By the 1920s, they were trying to figure out a way to remediate that. So, they bought 320 acres south of Peekskill, right on the Hudson River, and they figured out, "Let's come up with a name that's really attractive to the younger passengers. We've got Bear Mountain. Let's make this Indian Point." Sounds pretty cool, but as far as tribes nearby, north and south of us, not where we are.
Sarah Howorth [00:14:05] Okay, gotcha. I was just curious if there was a relationship fostered with Indigenous people in the area or if they had a say in how the land was being used or the fact that a plant would be constructed. But it seems like they maybe weren't close enough to that area?
Brian Vangor [00:14:23] No, they weren't. And again, it was strictly a fabricated name.
Sarah Howorth [00:14:28] Interesting. So, let's jump into maybe the technical aspect of things for a bit. How many megawatts was Indian Point generating and what other details are important to the history of the plant?
Brian Vangor [00:14:42] Well, Indian Point 1 was one of a kind. It was a Babcock & Wilcox reactor. It was 60% nuclear and 40% an oil super heater. So, it was really a one of a kind plant. It had horizontal steam generators. It was a pressurized water reactor, but the rods came in from the bottom, which was unusual and typically, for a boiling water reactor. It only ran for 12 years. It originally had a thorium core, which was called Core A. And after its first cycle, Core A was removed in its entirety and replaced with Core B, which was a uranium core. And it made 265 megawatts.
Brian Vangor [00:15:31] Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 were, for the time, classic Westinghouse pressurized water reactors, four-loop pressurized water reactors. Indian Point 2 was built at, I think, 875 megawatts and Indian Point 3 at 965. They were later upgraded to larger outputs. Indian Point 3 ended up at about 1,070 megawatts at the end of its life. But those were typical four-loop pressurized water reactors, 15x15 Westinghouse fuel assemblies. Many of them were built in the '70s.
Sarah Howorth [00:16:09] And how did this differ at all from plants that were built before?
Brian Vangor [00:16:16] The plants that were built before were smaller. They were either, maybe, two-loop or three-loop plants. The early plants, like Connecticut Yankee or Yankee Rowe... There was a number of them, Dresden. They were smaller plants, different containment buildings. Didn't have the large containment buildings. Some of them had a metal sphere just like Indian Point 1 did. So, they were smaller plants. And again, there was no standard design. They were all built special. They were all one of a kind.
Sarah Howorth [00:16:47] Gotcha. And so in your book, you give a detailed account of the plant layout as well. Can you give us sort of an abbreviated, or not, account of what the layout of the plant looked like?
Brian Vangor [00:16:58] Normally, nuclear power plants had a control room that was shared between, say, two units. So, the control rooms were like back-to-back horseshoes, but it wasn't the case at Indian Point. Indian Point 1 sat between Indian Point 2 and 3. They had separate turbine halls and separate control rooms and separate control buildings and separate spent fuel pools. In a lot of things that other plants would combine, Indian Point was separate. So, that led to things later on. But it was definitely unusual. I visited other plants in my career and it was interesting to see a control room back-to-back and both units in one room. I was so used to Indian Point where I sat in the Unit 3 control room and Unit 2's control room was 800 feet away.
Sarah Howorth [00:17:50] Right.
Brian Vangor [00:17:51] But they did that because, I guess, the layout of the land. They decided to build Indian Point 2 and Indian Point 3 on either side of Indian Point 1.
Sarah Howorth [00:18:00] And so, tell us a little bit more about your time at Indian Point. Did you have a particular day-to-day task that was most intriguing to you or any passion projects or anything like that during your career there?
Brian Vangor [00:18:13] Well, like I said, I started in 1980 as a Shift Technical Advisor. And in 1982, they sent myself and my very best friend, Don... We went to college together, and we both had jobs right out of school we weren't real thrilled with. He went to GE and I went to American Electric Power. So, when I got that piece of paper on my desk that day down in the city about being a Shift Technical Advisor, I immediately sent it off to Don, who lived much closer to Indian Point than I did. And we both started the same day.
Sarah Howorth [00:18:46] Oh, wow. That's awesome.
Brian Vangor [00:18:48] Yeah, March 31st, 1980. He's retired now, but we started the same day. We were both STAs. We were also the first two STAs to go to license school for our Senior Reactor Operator's license in 1982. And we finished in 1983. So, really in 1983, we went on the watch as licensed operators. We were kind of used as special projects people by the Operations Manager. Whatever was going on in the plant as far as an INPO visit or an NRC evaluation or if procedures needed to be revised, we worked on special things like that. We didn't spend our entire day in the control room, we were able to float around and work on other projects, so that was very good.
Brian Vangor [00:19:30] The other part of that was Don and I were chosen way early on in the '80s to do refueling, which became our passion. So, refueling is when you shut the plant down every year-and-a-half or two years and you are going to refuel the reactor. So, it's quite a evolution taking the reactor apart with a 169-ton reactor vessel head and 193 fuel assemblies. But we were given that job; we didn't know anything about it. Westinghouse did the work. Westinghouse was always hired to come back during outages and perform all these large tasks, whether refueling, steam generator maintenance, turbine maintenance, reactor vessel head inspections, reactor coolant pump maintenance, they did all that work. But they always had somebody from the company with them to help them along the process because they didn't know the people, they didn't know the plant, and they didn't know the processes. So, Don and I were assigned to do refueling.
Brian Vangor [00:20:28] When you do refueling in a reactor, there needs to be a Senior Reactor Operator who monitors the core alterations. You must be in direct line of sight or communication with the core alteration. So, that was Don and I. So, that was like the late '80s, we were doing our first refueling. And then, we did every refueling after that until the plant closed. So for like 30 years, we did refueling. And that became, really, our passion. We really looked forward to outages. I mean, we spent our entire lives in the control room, 85 to 90% of the time. When the outages came, we went off and did refueling. And it was just such an interesting and fun job to do. Moving the fuel, taking the reactor apart, doing reactor disassembly, taking all the fuel out, bringing it over to the fuel building, inspecting it all, and then bringing it all back in. It's just a really interesting job.
Sarah Howorth [00:21:25] That's awesome. So, you feel like you really learned by doing for the most part?
Brian Vangor [00:21:29] In that case, we certainly did. Westinghouse taught us in the beginning. Realized we were young kids with brand new SRO licenses, and we learned from there. It took a number of refuelings to learn, but we eventually did. And then, we just inherited every refueling after that. There was no question about it, who was doing refueling.
Sarah Howorth [00:21:52] Right. And was there kind of a mentorship culture that eventually came to be between the people that had been there for a while or been in nuclear for a while and the people like yourself who came in a little bit later?
Brian Vangor [00:22:05] When Don and I arrived at Indian Point, there was... I'll call them this. They'll hate this, but they were old timers. And they had either come to Indian Point from Con Edison in the city... Most likely Con Edison in the city. And they were near the end of their careers and they had aspired to work at Indian Point, and they were. And we learned everything from these guys. They just knew the plant backwards and forwards. They watched it get built. They watched it during construction. They did the first refueling. They did the first everything. And they just knew the plant inside and out, backwards and forwards, and you just tried to be like them. And we really admired these guys. They were just great to work for.
Sarah Howorth [00:22:52] That's amazing. And do you feel like that's one of the things that was maybe unique to Indian Point? And what else really stood out about the plant?
Brian Vangor [00:23:03] I'm sure that was unique to Indian Point. What really stood out about the plant was that we had some really smart people. They really set the plant on the right track from the beginning. A lot of things were done over the years, a lot of things were practiced, a lot of procedures were performed, and it all came from this first group who really started the plant up and set the tone for how the plant would be operating over the decades.
Sarah Howorth [00:23:34] And you also talked a little bit already about the huge time commitment that this was and how employees sometimes missed the soccer games and the birthdays and things like that. What really kept you all going during those long shifts and your time there?
Brian Vangor [00:23:51] Well, first of all, we loved being there. So, you grew to love the job, and it wasn't something you could easily walk away from. I mean, not only did we work 12 hour shifts, normally, in the control room, whether it was 6 A.M. to 6 P.M. or the other way around, but in outages, you typically worked 6 or 7 "12s." So, you were there for 30 days, sometimes, in the early days before they had a fatigue rule. You could be there for 30 days in a row working 12 hours a shift. There was only one thing in your brain, and that was just to get this refueling done and get it done right and get it over with. And your family knew this was coming. You went home, you went to sleep, you woke up, you ate something, you went back to work. It wasn't something we hated doing, it was something we loved doing.
Brian Vangor [00:24:42] Refueling... I explained this to other, younger, SROs later in my life. Refueling became addictive. You really couldn't wait for it to happen. You knew it real well. You couldn't wait for the same Westinghouse guys to come back from Pittsburgh. We had a great time and we ended up with a group that really did the outages very well.
Sarah Howorth [00:25:05] And are people today still able to visit the grounds of Indian Point? Are there any other historical resources other than your book, of course, which is an amazing one to start with?
Brian Vangor [00:25:16] Well, yes. We give tours today, still, to people who are interested in coming to the plant to see what's happening now with decommissioning. We're always open to that. In fact, we do West Point tours. We do local politicians, leaders, local community groups. Everybody has been to the plant in the last couple of years to see what's happening. The Buchanan Local History Room, which is in the village of Buchanan, has a lot of artifacts and memorabilia and photographs of Indian Point over the years, the park and the power plant. So, yeah, there are things to do, and you can visit Indian Point.
Sarah Howorth [00:25:56] That's awesome. And then, what would you say, maybe, nuclear now, nuclear today, could learn from Indian Point?
Brian Vangor [00:26:06] One thing that made Indian Point successful where other plants may have not been so successful in this area was Indian Point was not a revolving door. People came and stayed for their entire careers and it made a huge difference. I know of other plants that are basically, people come in, they stay for a couple of years and they leave there. They're just not as conducive to staying there. Whereas, Indian Point was. And so, all the people that I worked with over the years, they were there from the '80s. And we all knew how to work together. We all knew what each other was capable of. We knew how to communicate with each other. So, operating the plant and performing outages on the plant became much easier when everybody knew what each other was doing and everybody got very good at it. So, that was one thing. If you can keep people for a long time and make them happy, that works out much better than having a revolving door at your plant.
Sarah Howorth [00:27:08] That makes a lot of sense, for sure. And where is Indian Point at right now in the process of decommissioning? What will that look like in the future, as well?
Brian Vangor [00:27:18] Right now... So, we started decommissioning in the fall of 2021. We shut Indian Point 3 down on April 30th, 2021. We have two major projects going on at Indian Point right now. One is Pool to Pad. So, that's unloading all the fuel assemblies out of both spent fuel pools, Unit 2 and Unit 3, into dry cask storage and up to the spent fuel pad, or the ISFSI pad, is what it's called, the Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation. We finished Unite 2 on February 1st. So, we're going to start Unit 3 in June, and we're hoping to be done by the end of the year, or in November, actually, with Indian Point 3. So, that project should be over by the end of the year. That's the Pool to Pad project.
Brian Vangor [00:28:03] The other project is vessel segmentation. So, that's the cutting up of the reactor coolant systems and the reactor vessels, basically. So, they started first with Indian Point 3. The Unit 3 head is completely cut up and the pieces are being removed right now. It's almost gone, actually. The upper internals package is being cut up and most of it is gone. The RCS loops, where they connected to the reactor vessel and the steam generators have been cut. So, the next big project is to get down into the reactor and start working on the core barrel or the lower internals and, eventually, the reactor vessel. So, Unit 3 is first in that process. Then they'll go over to Unit 2. And I think the last thing to come apart will be Unit 1, which looks like it might be a little more difficult. But those are the two projects, Sarah. Vessel Segmentation and Pool to Pad.
Sarah Howorth [00:29:04] Okay, great. And one of the things that kind of gave me chills or really stood out to me when reading through your book was when you mentioned and showed a picture of the fact that some of the people who had been working at Indian Point for such a long time actually signed a part of the plant upon their departure. Can you tell me a little bit about that? I thought that was really cool.
Brian Vangor [00:29:26] Normally, we don't write on walls or write on things when the plant was running, but when it came time to start taking the plant apart, you would see names and things popping up. So, I think the thing you're referring to is probably the top of the manipulator crane mast when we took the last fuel out of Unit 3, which was the last fuel out of any reactor there. So, we all signed the top of the mast. That mast is long gone now. But I did take a lot of pictures of it, and people added their names over some time. I did put it in the book. There are other instances of that going on right now.
Sarah Howorth [00:30:04] That's awesome. Well, even though it's gone, it'll be forever immortalized in your book. So, that's very cool.
Brian Vangor [00:30:09] That's what I'm hoping. Especially for the people who really worked hard at that plant to make it the success that it was.
Sarah Howorth [00:30:17] And do you all keep in touch still, today, after forging what seems like such a strong bond while working there?
Brian Vangor [00:30:24] We do. There's Friends of Indian Point on Facebook. There are retiree luncheons that are held like every month or two. There's one coming up in a few weeks that I'll probably go to. But yes, we do keep in touch with a lot of our friends. And I send out photographs of the decommissioning to hundreds of them pretty regularly. So, I'm still taking a lot of pictures and a lot of video at the plant. I've been doing that for years and years, and I have quite a collection of tens of thousands of photographs. Everybody likes to see that stuff, so we do keep in touch.
Sarah Howorth [00:31:04] And so, as Indian Point is being decommissioned, do you have a vision that you want to share for what the future of nuclear could look like?
Brian Vangor [00:31:14] Well, as far as Indian Point goes, Indian Point will be there, probably, for the next 12 to 15 years. We're not talking about taking the containment buildings down for about 12 years. So, they'll be disassembled from the inside and all the reactor coolant system and all the equipment will be slowly cut up and removed from the buildings. But the containment buildings will be there for quite some time, as will Indian Point 1.
Brian Vangor [00:31:38] There was talk about... Holtec, who is now the owner of Indian Point, is heavily into small modular reactors, which is the way that it seems like the industry is going for the immediate future, and it seems like the next wave of nuclear power in this country. I'm sure they would love to put a small modular reactor at Indian Point. Whether that will happen or not, I'm not sure. I know they're looking at other places in this country, as well. So, Holtec and other companies are heavily investing in small modular reactors. Many of my coworkers are seeing the end of their career at the plant, and they're going to work for Holtec on small modular reactors. So, that seems to be the next wave, SMRs. Whether that'll happen at Indian Point, you know, I'd love to see an Indian Point 4 and 5, but who knows?
Sarah Howorth [00:32:31] Yeah, we'll definitely have to see. Where can people who want to read your book find it?
Brian Vangor [00:32:37] Oh, my book is on Amazon. It's on Barnes Noble. It's on Target, I think. So, it's on a lot of websites, you can just order it. I have it here. You can see the front of it if you want.
Sarah Howorth [00:32:50] Yeah, yeah. Let's show it off for all of our YouTube viewers. And if you're listening, there's a very cool historical picture on the front and there's a big sign on the top that says "Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant." And do you have a name for the person who is operating on that photo?
Brian Vangor [00:33:07] Well, the funny thing about that photo is Arcadia wanted six possible cover pictures. And I thought an aerial photo would probably be the best, but they didn't want an aerial. They wanted something that was old and they wanted something that showed a person in it. So, I always loved this picture. It's a Con Edison picture. It's the first refueling of Indian Point 1 in 1965. And this person here is sitting at the control panels, and he's sitting right over the reactor vessel underneath him, and he's actually moving fuel using these controls. So this, I think, is 1965.
Brian Vangor [00:33:42] It took me a while to find out who that was. I figured if this is going to be the cover, let me do everything I can to find out who that was. So, I sent this photo out to every old timer I could think of who worked at Indian Point, especially Indian Point 1. And most came back and said, "No idea. Before my time." But one person, Bill Lettmoden wrote back and said, "That looks like Jimmy Oakman to me." So I said, "Okay, and who's Jimmy Oakman?" He mentioned another employee who I did know, Madalyn Noto, who worked in my era. That's her dad.
Sarah Howorth [00:34:15] Oh, wow.
Brian Vangor [00:34:17] So I said, "Are you kidding me?" So, I emailed the photograph to Madalyn in Florida. She had never seen the picture before. And she said, "Oh my gosh, where did you get that picture of my dad from?" And so, we have a little bit of a story. Not only did Jimmy Oakman work at Indian Point in Operations and Maintenance, but his daughter, Madalyn, worked at the plant for 37 years. She married her husband, who worked at the plant, Dan Noto. He worked there, also, 30-plus years. So, the cover has a little bit of a story.
Sarah Howorth [00:34:49] That's amazing. Yeah, it definitely goes to show how much of a family it really was there, for sure.
Brian Vangor [00:34:53] It was. We had so many fathers and sons and fathers and daughters and uncles and grandfathers who built the plant. I mean, there are two pictures in the book where I show a control room operator sitting in the Unit 3 control room in 1985. And then 30 years later, his daughter is sitting there in the same exact spot with an SRO license and also as a Control Room Supervisor. So, it's quite amazing, the people who have gone through there. Amazing people.
Sarah Howorth [00:35:22] Yeah, that's amazing. I think if I'm remembering correctly, too, there's a picture in your book of a few family members that all worked at the plant, which was very cool.
Brian Vangor [00:35:30] Lots of family members. Lots of husbands, wives, like I said, fathers, sons, and grandfathers who built the plant and uncles who built the plant. So many stories and so many thousands of people went through Indian Point over the years.
Sarah Howorth [00:35:46] And I know you took a lot of the pictures yourself, too, if I'm not mistaken. Do you have, maybe, a standout photo or two that is your favorite, if you could even choose?
Brian Vangor [00:35:57] If I could even choose. Gosh, that's a tough one.
Sarah Howorth [00:36:01] I know. There are so many good ones in there.
Brian Vangor [00:36:04] My favorite part of this book is Indian Point 1. I'm totally fascinated by Indian Point 1, and I was so lucky to find these pictures of Indian Point 1. But I didn't take any of those pictures. I love "then and nows." So, I was able to take these two pictures. This picture here is a Con Edison photo from 1962. I couldn't wait for us to remove this concrete plug out of the floor here so I could take the same exact picture in 2020. And so, here's a picture of the same thing taken over 50 years apart, almost 60 years apart. And so, these are kind of my favorites. I went through great pains to get the same exact angle. I know my lens was, probably, slightly a different lens than the person who took this original Con Ed photo, but I did the best I could.
Sarah Howorth [00:36:58] Yeah, well, it looks pretty identical except for everything else that's going on in the photo. So, that's amazing.
Brian Vangor [00:37:03] In the original photo ,the reactor vessel head is not on yet. But in this picture here from 2020, the head has been on for, like, 50 years.
Sarah Howorth [00:37:15] And what page are those photos on for everyone who wants to grab your book and take a look?
Brian Vangor [00:37:19] They're on pages 38 and 39 of the book.
Sarah Howorth [00:37:20] Amazing.
Brian Vangor [00:37:20] And there are lots of construction photos. And then, here's another great photograph given to me by a former coworker who's now retired. I talked about families. This is a Family Day in 1970 where Jim Mooney, Sr., up here, is an INC supervisor at all three units, at the time, and he's taking his family through Indian Point 2 to look at the construction. And I ended up working with with Jimmy and Mike Mooney down here. Jim's retired and Mike is working overseas. But it's just amazing that he was able to find that photograph of his whole family in the airlock at Indian Point 2.
Sarah Howorth [00:38:05] Yeah, that's amazing. That's such a cool photo.
Brian Vangor [00:38:07] It really is. And I was so happy to contact Jimmy, and he had the original.
Sarah Howorth [00:38:14] That's great. That's awesome. Well, everyone will definitely look forward to seeing those photos and many more in your book. Do you have a message that you want to leave us off with or anything we didn't talk about that you wanted to mention?
Brian Vangor [00:38:30] I'm just thankful for all the people that went through that plant over the years. They really worked together, they made it happen, and they made Indian Point successful. It ran for 59 years, overall. And then in the end, in its final run, Indian Point 3 set a world record, which is in the book. For the first time ever, one of the Indian Point units ran what we call breaker to breaker.
Brian Vangor [00:38:54] So, breaker to breaker is you leave one refueling, you refuel a reactor, you start the plant up, and you go all the way to the next refueling until you have to shut the plant down. Typically, there was always something happening, a maintenance outage, an unplanned or unscheduled shutdown, where something would disrupt that. So, the final run of Indian Point 3, which is very fitting to all of us, was a world record run of 753 days, breaker to breaker, refueling to refueling, and we are very, very proud of that.
Sarah Howorth [00:39:26] That's a great note to, I think, wrap up on. And that was Brian, everybody. You can go ahead and get his book anywhere he listed before. I personally ordered mine on Amazon, and I've really been enjoying looking through it. Thank you so much for coming on, Brian. It's great to have you.
Brian Vangor [00:39:41] Thank you so much for having me, Sarah. Thank you. Have a great day.