Wunderkinds 2013: Rob Andersen, 28
Senior Reactor Operator, Indian Point Energy Center
As a senior reactor operator at Indian Point Energy Center, a three-unit nuclear power plant located in Buchanan, it is Rob Andersen’s job to “protect the health and safety of the public,” he says. When everything at the plant is working as it should, Andersen’s job is to perform regular maintenance checks of the equipment and to oversee the scores of technicians needed to make the plant run. When there is a problem, such as a recent transformer explosion, he is the guy who orders the plant to be shut down and left in a safe condition so that it won’t affect public health and safety. Then he oversees the troubleshooting and repairs, and works to make sure the same accident doesn’t happen again.
At 28, Andersen, who lives in Oakland, New Jersey, may be the youngest person in the control room, but he certainly makes up for his age with experience. Indian Point trained him for two years before he could work on the ground, putting him in a simulator to learn how to control the plant and drilling him on how to respond to a myriad of possible accidents and other scenarios. And before that, he worked for six and a half years in the Navy, where, for four of those years, he was a head engineer on a submarine. Although details of nuclear submarines’ working must be kept under wraps, Andersen says broadly that his job was similar to what he is doing now at Indian Point. “We would operate the equipment on the power grid, do all the maintenance, all the testing and troubleshooting, and everything necessary to keep all the electrical equipment running the way it should.”
Despite having stumbled upon his career by accident—he originally wanted to be a musician in the Navy, but he scored so well on initial aptitude tests that they introduced him to a nuclear-power position—he is now very passionate about the field. “Nuclear is a big debate everywhere,” he says. “I think the right thing to do is to build nuclear plants across the country. It’s a safe way to create energy, which we need.”
Andersen plans to pursue his MBA so he can secure an even larger management role at Indian Point (or another plant) in the future.
“Basically, Rob is going to be my boss in a couple of years,” says Jerry Nappi, Indian Point’s communications manager. “Let’s just leave it at that.”