Elizabeth Native Powers Up PSEG Nuclear Plants for Newark, All New Jersey

Apr 15, 2021 11:30 AM ET
Article

By MARK J. BONAMO

Rodriguez's drive led her from Elizabeth to her 2013 graduation from MIT with a degree in nuclear science and engineering. Her focus is now channeled into helping to run PSEG's nuclear power plants in Salem County in South Jersey, the source of 40 percent of the electricity used in the entire state. Her goal - provide power for her people in a safe, clean, and green way that addresses the challenge of climate change in the years to come. 

What Rodriguez does every day would boggle the mind and test the endurance of most people. She earned her Senior Reactor Operator license in 2019 and now works as a nuclear shift supervisor, with the shifts lasting three or four days a week for 12 hours each day. She does this working around a panel with the types of lights, dials, switches and knobs that to some could seem like science fiction rather than creating the power that fuels our daily lives. But when explaining her job, Rodriguez flips the switch to simple facts. 

"Our plants work like generic fossil fuel plants in that we produce energy from making heat, to making steam, to turning a turbine, to generating electricity in the generator. The major difference is that we don't burn fossil fuel - we have nuclear fission. Nuclear fission is simply splitting atoms, the process of which makes heat, and that heat makes energy. Everything that goes on in the unit that I'm in charge of that day goes through me. I have to make sure that everything's working properly." 

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