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Kristi Nichols: ‘It is an honor to be the first’

Kristi Nichols is a licensed senior reactor operator and shift manager at Vogtle 1&2.

She is a native of Augusta, Georgia. She earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial and systems engineering from Georgia Tech in 2009 – the same year she joined SNC as an engineer at the plant. She obtained her SRO in 2013.

Nichols loves to travel (she’s been to more than 20 countries). She spent her most recent birthday in Iceland, where she hiked through an ice cave in a glacier. She also enjoys kayaking and biking, and she’s the doting aunt of her one-year old nephew Elias.

Here, she tells us a little bit about her career.

What initially interested you about working at Plant Vogtle?

I grew up in the Augusta and was aware of some of the opportunities available in a career in nuclear energy. In addition, the father of a close friend of mine from Georgia Tech worked for SNC and encouraged me to apply.  

What was your experience like when you were in the licensed operator program?

The licensed operator program is definitely a challenge in the breadth of information that must be obtained and retained over a couple of years. My favorite parts were the simulator training environment, the team dynamics of the students and instructors from my class.

You’re the first woman at Vogtle 1&2 to be shift manager in Operations. Were you aware of that distinction when you took the job? What does it mean to you to be the first?

I was aware of this distinction when I took the job. It should be noted that there were several female senior reactor operators who came before me and provided encouragement along the way. Although it is an honor to be the first, my main goals are to provide leadership for my crew and develop my skills. If my job title provides any inspiration for others to enter the nuclear field and pursue leadership positions, then that is an added bonus.

What do you enjoy about your job? What are the challenges?

I truly enjoy the camaraderie and environment of the operating crew. I am particularly impressed by the way a team can work together through dynamic challenges toward a common goal. The challenges of my job are similar to any other team of intelligent and motivated individuals.

Who inspires you – either on or off the job?

I’ve had the opportunity to work with several people who have provided the foundation for both my knowledge and leadership in nuclear power. I attempt to learn as much as I can from those around me. 

My new nuclear idol is Naohiro Masuda, who led Fukushima Daini employees through their period of crisis and was able to avoid core damage through his quiet leadership and cooperative decision making. He was a particularly inspirational speaker I heard at the Summer Institute for World Nuclear University in South Korea, where I’m currently a fellow. It’s a six-week course focused on leadership and the international industry. 

What advice do you have for other women who want to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be to continue to push yourself and look for new opportunities. Don’t be afraid to speak up or contribute. The only thing that limits your progression is yourself.