T.Lee’s Life Story – Chapter 8, Westinghouse Again

Chapter 8 of my life brought me full circle. When I left the US Navy in 1980, I began my professional civilian nuclear career with Westinghouse. After working at Westinghouse for 10 years, I quit Westinghouse in 1990 to do contracting work for higher wages. In 2010, 20 years later, circumstances caused me to return to Westinghouse once again. My second stint at Westinghouse is what this chapter is about.

Let me begin by telling you how I came to return to Westinghouse after a 20-year hiatus. My wife and I were living in Florida. She was working in-house at the Palm Beach County School District, and I was doing nuclear contract work. The major disadvantage of doing contract work is that there are NO company benefits, such as life insurance, dental insurance, medical insurance, paid sick days, or paid vacation days. Being an in-house employee, my wife had all these benefits, so as her spouse, I was covered by HER medical benefits.

My wife had been working with this Florida school district at their headquarters for over 11 years. She had an excellent work record and was well-known throughout the school district, having earned the respect and admiration of her colleagues, school technicians, various directors, and school principals. Then one day she got a new boss, a director who took an immediate dislike to her and fired her shortly after becoming her boss.

Suddenly, we were without any medical insurance of any kind. I was at the age where a sudden heart attack was a possibility. With the exorbitant cost of medical care in the USA, I could not risk having a heart attack with no medical insurance to cover the outrageous costs. So this was an undesirable situation for us.

Now, school districts practice cronyism. You get hired, not for what you know, but for whom you know. Once you are fired from one school district, the word spreads to other school districts, who are then unwilling to hire you into their school districts. So to regain medical benefits, I had to leave my contracting career behind and go in-house (get an in-house job) again. I applied to Westinghouse, and they rehired me in 2010 to work in their headquarters building in Cranberry, Pennsylvania, a small town on the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Westinghouse HQ Building in Cranberry, Pennsylvania

Westinghouse had always been a good company to me. The people are friendly, professional, competent, and they treat people like adults. I was very pleased to return to Westinghouse. While I was with Westinghouse this time, I served as one of their representatives to a large organization called the Pressurized Water Reactors Owners Group (PWROG). During this time, I worked on numerous projects to support this group, part of which allowed me to author several professional publications that provided guidance to all PWR nuclear plants in the country. This experience further enhanced my reputation in the nuclear industry. During this time I was able to take advantage of an opportunity to get certified as a senior reactor operator (SRO) instructor on Westinghouse’s new generation of advanced nuclear power plant, called the AP1000. This allowed me to teach in China for four months since they were building four AP1000 nuclear power plant units, and they needed Westinghouse personnel to train their control room personnel.

Unfortunately, the cost of developing and building this new advanced AP1000 reactor plant design caused Westinghouse to become pinched for money, so they instituted some austerity measures at the company to save money. These measures included NO pay raises for a year or more and the expectation that employees at my level would voluntarily work 32 hours of ‘casual’ overtime every month for free. After three years, I found these austerity measures to be not to my liking, so I quit Westinghouse once again to return to doing contract work for more money. This transition ends this chapter of my life.