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Personnel File - August 2008: Energy / Environment

Dhiaa Jamil
Chief Nuclear Officer Duke Energy CORP.

Career: Graduated in 1979 from UNC Charlotte with a bachelor’s in electrical engineering. Went to work for a now-defunct company that provided technical support for textile-factory machinery. Went to work in 1981 in Duke Energy’s design engineering department. Promoted to current job in January. Is in charge of the company’s three nuclear plants in the Carolinas.

Dhiaa Jamil has seen plenty of change in his 27 years in the energy industry but admits he and other long-timers have been pleasantly surprised by the recent softening of attitudes toward nuclear power. “I don’t think any of us thought a resurgence like this would take place in our career,” Jamil, 52, says.

The industry has environmentalists to thank for the nuclear renaissance. When they pressured lawmakers to curb carbon emissions by finding alternatives to fossil fuels, nuclear energy was among the choices. Though it still faces resistance from some environmentalists and voters concerned about another Three Mile Island or Chernobyl, it is gaining acceptance. In 2005, a new energy policy was approved that provides incentives for building nuclear reactors. A streamlined application process also has led Duke and other utilities to seek federal approval for new stations. In December, Duke applied to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for permission to build a fourth nuclear station in the Carolinas. The W.S. Lee III Nuclear Station would be built near Gaffney, S.C., and generate more than 2,200 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 1.7 million homes. The application process takes around four years — about half the time it’s taken in the past.

Jamil, whose parents are from Turkey, says an emphasis on safety and innovation have made it possible for nuclear power to regain acceptance. He believes a variety of sources must be used to supply the country’s energy needs. “You know we’ve been blessed with lots of coal, and from an energy-security standpoint, we can’t overlook that coal has to be part of the mix,” he says. “These days, nuclear makes up about 20% of the mix, but there’s no reason why it couldn’t safely and reliably provide more.”