May 1, 2019

Ep 155: Mara Levy - Reactor Engineer, Exelon Generation

Reactor Engineer
Exelon Generation
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Show notes

1 - 02:06

Q: How did you get interested in the nuclear space?

A: Mara Levy started out her nuclear engineering undergraduate program at Penn State after becoming self-interested in the energy industry, especially nuclear. The Breazeale Nuclear Reactor is on campus at Penn State, allowing students to complete labs on a real test reactor that has an open pool of water, allowing reactions to be visible. Mara Levy was also involved in the student chapter of the American Nuclear Society during her time at school.

2 - 06:29

Q: What kind of first hand experience did you have while at school?

A: While studying nuclear engineering at Penn State, Mara Levy participated in two industry internships. Her first internship with Exelon was at Three Mile Island, and her second was at the Exelon headquarters at Cantera outside of Chicago. While working at the home office, Levy focused on understanding the core design and fuel management. During her time at Three Mile Island, Levy worked on new fuel receipt , which is the process when new fuel assemblies are brought on-site in preparation for the refueling outage. The inspection procedures when fuel is brought to the site is essential for maintaining the integrity of the assemblies for use in the plant. The spent fuel pool is in a separate building from the core, and fuel is transported underwater through transfer canals that connect the buildings. Irradiated spent fuel is the hottest when it first comes out of the water. During refueling, the core is fully offloaded into the spent fuel pool, allowing maintenance within the reactor vessel by divers and submarines.

3 - 15:05

Q: What was your first full-time position at Exelon?

A: After graduation, Mara Levy hired on with Exelon full-time in reactor engineering and spent two years completing technical training in order to become a fully qualified reactor engineer. Experienced reactor engineers provided mentorship to Levy as she transitioned into the field. Since Exelon has a large network of nuclear plants, Exelon employees, such as engineers or maintenance technicians, are shared between plants during outages to provide support and experience. Once a reactor engineer is fully qualified, the engineer can support a shift independently by providing the operating crew with water plans, reactivity maneuver approval (REMA) forms, and other materials necessary for operation. REMA forms are required to descent power from 100%, which is the capacity the plant is ideally operating at, in order to perform maintenance and other operations.

4 - 19:34

Q: As a reactor engineer, are you planning out the maneuvers?

A: As a reactor engineer, Mara Levy understands the nuclear systems and how the components are integrated, but also collaborates with work management, operations, and maintenance to get input before maneuvers and also must notify the grid so they can divert power during the power descent. Operating Strategy Generator software is used widely in the industry to input power maneuvers and allow engineers to optimize the plan. Levy also serves as the special nuclear material custodian for Three Mile Island, which entails understanding and maintaining documentation for where all the special nuclear material is on-site. Before each fuel assemblies is moved, documentation must be reviewed and approved.

5 - 22:20

Q: Are you involved in other leadership roles in the nuclear industry?

A: Mara Levy is involved in external leadership roles, including serving as a site chair for North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN). One of NAYGN’s focal points is on community outreach and education by reaching out to schools and presenting on nuclear energy to students. A group of NAYGN members wrote a children’s book about nuclear energy and members volunteer their time to read it to classes and share it with the community. The general public does not know where their electricity comes from, so education is a premier focus. Levy also participates in Generation Nation, another group that focuses on sharing information with the public through the use of interactive apps teaching individuals about what different buildings are on a nuclear reactor site and what happens in each building.

6 - 30:01

Q: What do you aspire to do in the nuclear space in the future?

A: Mara Levy aspires to take on leadership roles within the nuclear industry in which she can focus on developing people. Levy would also like to continue her work with NAYGN and Generation Nation in educating the public on nuclear energy.

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