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Published on August 6th, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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Jeff Archie: The Nation’s Only African American Chief Nuclear Officer

Jeff Archie was raised in Jenkinsville, South Carolina by his maternal grandmother, the late Mary Ellen Robinson.  He remembers her extolling the virtue of hard work, and treating all people with respect.  She exclaimed to her grandson that if he focused on doing the right thing, was reliable and trustworthy and made the necessary sacrifices he would have a seat at the table.  Her words proved prophetic.

In May 2010, Archie was appointed to the high-level position of Senior Vice President and Chief Nuclear Officer of South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G).  He is responsible for all nuclear matters, including the day-to-day management of nuclear operations, as well as the overall leadership and strategic direction for existing nuclear operations and new nuclear construction for SCE&G.  Archie is a major voice in the nuclear industry helping to shape policy and formulating best practices to protect the public health.  Every utility that owns nuclear assets has a Chief Nuclear Officer.  There are 100 commercial reactors in operation and 27 CNO’s in the United States.  Currently Archie is the only African American CNO .

For the leadership that he has provided to the nuclear industry, the Charlotte Business Journal honored Archie with the Energy Leadership Award on January 30, 2014 at the Mint Museum Uptown in Charlotte, North Carolina.  This award recognizes those who have played a key role in making the Carolinas a regional and global player in the energy industry.

The Formative Years

 Archie attended McCrorey-Liston High School in Fairfield County.  It was an all black high school without many of the educational resources that more affluent school districts enjoyed, but the assets it did have served Archie well.  It had a diverse faculty and nurturing and supportive parents who instilled in their children a desire to succeed.  Several of the school’s faculty members were defacto mentors who pressed him to move out of his comfort zone and embracechallenges that caused Archie to stretch his abilities.  He became a member of the band, played on championship teams in baseball and basketball where he learned the value of teamwork.  This process of stretching himself also enabled Archie to thrive in chemistry and physics.

Two miles down the road from Archie’s home was the construction site for the V. C. Summer Nuclear Plant.  He obtained his first summer job as a laborer with Fluor Daniel, the construction contractor for the plant.  The experience gave him an appreciation for what it took to work on a massive construction project and he was fascinated to see welders, craftsmen, engineers, carpenters and others working together and blending their skills and talents to build something that was vital to the state.

After graduating from high school, Archie entered the engineering program at the University of South Carolina.  When he completed his first year at USC, he went on his own initiative to the corporate offices of SCE&G in Columbia and introduced himself to some of the executives explaining to them that he was interested in learning about the company.  Intrigued by his inquisitiveness an executive in human resources showed him around and ultimately introduced him to Osmund Dixon, another executive with SCE&G.  Like Archie, Dixon was also from Fairfield County and their initial introduction laid the foundation for a relationship that would be beneficial to Archie over the course of his career.

After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a B.S. Degree in Mechanical Engineering, Archie had employment opportunities with a number of companies out of the state, but having worked at SCE&G every summer that he was in college, there was little doubt where he would start his career.  His grandmother was rooted in South Carolina and SCE&G had been a good fit for him.

When he started as a junior engineer, Dixon became his mentor and helped him to develop his innate leadership abilities. Dixon stressed the importance of having a strong work ethic and taught him to value his co-workers.  In addition, Dixon trained his young protégé to be hands on when confronted with technical challenges or personnel issues.  Archie credits Dixon with imparting to him many positive traits that were critical to his advancement.  He began his career with SCE&G as one of a few African American engineers at the Summer Station.  Dixon appreciated the unique challenges that Archie faced as an African American and was instrumental in helping him to navigate the various phases of his career with the company.

As he was tasked with different assignments within the company, they recognized his capabilities and encouraged him to pursue a path of upward mobility. While he was certainly comfortable being in the midst of the “troops” it was evident that his calling was in management.

In the mid 90’s, Archie had a leadership role in replacing the Station’s three steam generators with new units.  The multi-million dollar replacement process lasted 94 days, an industry record at the time. The project provided him with an opportunity to be accountable for a large workforce and meet cost and scheduling expectations.  Once the change out project was completed, Archie was selected to attend training on plant operations.  Because the company wants its leadership to have a foundational knowledge of nuclear plant operations, Archie went through the training to obtain his Senior Reactor Operator Certification.  This training was rigorous and lasted 12 months.  He successfully completed the process which included classroom instruction, main control room simulation and a comprehensive written exam.

After obtaining his Senior Reactor Operator Certification, Archie held several managerial positions with increasing leadership responsibilities including general manager of engineering, plant manager and vice president of nuclear plant operations, where his duties included overall leadership of the V.C. Summer Station’s operations, engineering, training, maintenance and support organizations.  Today he serves as a senior vice president at SCANA and the Chief Nuclear Officer for SCE&G.

Construction of Two New Nuclear Reactors

On March 30, 2012, SCE&G and Santee Cooper, South Carolina’s state-owned electric and water utility, received a license to construct and operate VC Summer Units 2 and 3 from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  This project puts Archie at the heart of many discussions regarding the future of nuclear energy in the US.

These are the first plants being constructed in the country in more than 30 years.  Much is at stake and the eyes of the nuclear industry are on Jenkinsville, South Carolina.  Two 1117 megawatt Westinghouse AP 1000 reactors are slated to become operational in a few years.  The economic impact of these multi-billion dollar facilities on the state and surrounding counties will be substantial.   The construction project will require approximately 3500 workers at its peak and requires equipment to be fabricated and delivered from facilities around the world.  Once the reactors are built 800 permanent staff will be employed to support operations.  The plants will be licensed to operate for 40 years with the opportunity to extend the licenses an additional 20 years.

Nuclear Safety

In addition to meeting energy needs the nuclear industry sees protecting the health and safety of the public as its top priority.  Nuclear power plants domestically and internationally cooperate with each other to address challenges that may be associated with the generation and delivery of electricity from nuclear power. Archie belongs to several professional organizations that help to formulate policy, promote best practices and facilitate research.  He is a member of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators (INPO) Executive Advisory Group and the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI) Nuclear Strategic Issues Advisory Committee.  He has also participated with the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO), an organization that provides a platform for the collaboration of every company and country in the world with commercial nuclear plants to achieve the highest possible standards for nuclear safety.

Archie has participated in a number of nuclear plant assessments in the United States, Germany and South Africa and has toured nuclear facilities in China and France.  In 2013 he toured the shutdown nuclear plants in Chernobyl as well as the damaged reactors at Fukushima.  After touring Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant Archie and two other CNO’s were selected to brief the staff at the United States Embassy in Japan.  Domestically he has also spent time conferring with local, state and federal officials, including United States Senators, about the project in Jenkinsville.

Community Involvement

Though he often finds himself in rarefied settings such as Wall Street briefing utility analysts, rating agency members, bankers and investors about the progress of the project, Archie finds the time to be involved in community affairs.  He is a member of St. Peters Community Church where he served as trustee and chaired a number of church projects.  In May of this year he participated in a panel discussion sponsored by the North American Young Generation in Nuclear (NAYGN) in Scottsdale, Arizona.  NAYGN provides opportunities for a young generation of nuclear professionals to develop leadership and professional skills, create life-long connections, engage and inform the public and inspire today’s nuclear technology professionals to meet the challenges of the 21st century.  The theme for the panel discussion was “Setting Relevant Career Goals.”

Approximately eight years ago Archie started an intern program for high school students in Fairfield County to introduce them to the type of employment opportunities that exist in the nuclear industry.  He also speaks to college bound students about how obtaining a college degree propelled his career in nuclear management.  Archie has also deployed company employees to serve as mentors to the Fairfield County School District’s robotics team.  This pairing was so successful that in March 2014 the students took the Highest Rookie Seed Award at the Palmetto Regional First Robotics competition in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Archie and SCE&G have recently entered into a partnership with the Columbia Urban League to provide some of its students with paid summer internships with VC Summer.  This experience gives students exposure to the demands of the work place, broadens their horizons in terms of career options and teaches them about responsibility.  He works closely with South Carolina State University which has the only accredited undergraduate nuclear engineering program at an HBCU in the country.  He chairs the University of South Carolina Mechanical Engineering Industry Advisory Board and has extensive contact with the Presidents of Midland Technical College and Aiken Technical College regarding developing curricula that are relevant to the nuclear industry.  He serves on the Midland Technical College Quick Jobs Advisory Committee, the American Red Cross Regional Advisory Council – Palmetto SC Region, the University of South Carolina Parents Advisory Council and the Palmetto Conservation Foundation Board.  The latter affiliation allows Archie to network with leaders across the state in regard to South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail, the state’s largest bicycle and pedestrian project which runs from its celestial mountains to its breathtaking coastline.  His seat on the board allows him to leverage his association with people who shape and execute policy so as to expand internship opportunities and foster mentoring relationships for the young people of the state.  Archie is also a senior advisor for Liberty Fellowship which is an incubator program for exemplary leadership in South Carolina.  Its goal is to move South Carolina forward through its greatest asset – its leaders.

He serves on a work force steering committee which was created under the auspices of NEI.  As the industry is faced with the retirement of experienced personnel, the committee is focused on recruiting their replacements and successors. Archie is keenly aware that diversity and inclusiveness are metrics that should be considered as nuclear utilities look to the future.

A recent example of SCE&G’s commitment to the community is its support to the establishment of the Eau Claire Cooperative Health Center in Jenkinsville.   With financial assistance from SCE&G and other grant money, a new 2700 square foot building was built to enable Eau Claire Cooperative to provide benefits such as vaccinations, a space for pediatricians, and better managed care closer to citizens in the surrounding communities.

Archie stated, “I think that it’s important for us to be a part of efforts like this.  We are not just an energy provider.  We are a neighbor.  We see opportunities where we can see a vision for things that will be incredibly beneficial to communities; we have to take steps to be involved in that.”

Archie is a pioneer in an industry that is critical to the economic growth of the nation and the quality of life of its citizens.  At the same time he is a bridge builder who enables others to reach their goals and fulfill their dreams.  His grandmother certainly would have been proud of the heights to which he has ascended.  She would have been equally proud that as her grandson has journeyed forward he has extended a helping hand to others with compassion and humility.

Archie is married to Leslie Gibson Archie and they are the parents of two adult children, Camille, a corporate auditor and CPA, and Bryant, a rising senior at the University of South Carolina.

Submitted by Dennis N. Cannon Jr. 

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