Alex at Career Day

At Career Day, Alex Vargas dressed in protective clothing to show the children how nuclear workers protect themselves in areas where they could encounter radiation

Mom paves the way at Career Day

Alex in uniform

Students at West Street School in Southbridge, MA, recently asked Alex Vargas if she ever glows in the dark... “You know, like Homer Simpson and Mr. Burns.” Although the students are as young as second graders, it’s a question nuclear workers hear often—even from grownups—thanks to the long-running television show The Simpsons. No, Alex doesn’t glow, much to the disappointment of the students. And her job is a lot more serious than that of Homer Simpson. Alex is a licensing engineer at Millstone Power Station in Waterford, CT, where she supports the nuclear facility on technical issues, inspections, regulatory compliance, licensing submittals and more.

But Alex is also a mom. Her two worlds came together when she spoke about her job to her children and their classmates at their recent Career Day. Children are never too young to learn about something as serious as nuclear power, especially when someone like Alex makes it interesting and fun. She taught the students how one full power cycle of a reactor works, using an animated presentation of a pressurized-water reactor and posters provided by Sara Aitken, Millstone’s Community Affairs administrator. Alex even dressed up in personal protective equipment to show how nuclear workers protect themselves when they go into containment or other areas where they can be exposed to radiation.

She explained how reactors are powered using uranium pellets and how just one tiny pellet is equal to three barrels of oil, a ton of coal, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas. Alex shared a sample pellet—which is smaller than the length of the bristles on a toothbrush—and let the students pass it around to examine up close. Thanks to Alex and others like her, students are gaining a greater appreciation for the essential role of electricity and an understanding of how nuclear stations work. 

Glowing in the dark and The Simpsons aside, students at West Street School got a glimpse into how their lights turn on, how they power up their gaming consoles, and how they keep warm in the winter. Most importantly, they got to learn about what De’Juan and Kailyn’s mom does at work each day. “There is nothing more important than helping our children reach their full potential,” Alex says. And she may very well have paved the way for some future nuclear engineers.

 

 Proudly sporting her Dominion Energy hardhat, Alex posed with the other individuals who presented at Career Day.