State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School

Student Spotlight: Eric Scheuch on Interning in the Nuclear Power Industry

This summer, Eric Scheuch, a rising senior in the Undergraduate Program in Sustainable Development interned at Thomas Thor Associates, a company that provides recruitment and consulting services to the global nuclear industry. He shared his summer internship experiences and his professional growth with State of the Planet.

Tell us more about your organization and internship. What does the internship entail and what do you enjoy most?

I spent this summer interning for Thomas Thor Associates, an international firm providing recruiting and consulting services to the global nuclear industry. The internship had three main facets: sourcing talent for a variety of nuclear projects, helping one of the company’s divisions revamp its marketing operations, and working on a government-oriented research project. Although I enjoyed all aspects of the internship, I especially enjoyed working for a mission-oriented, multinational company. The company’s international nature meant interacting with coworkers from three continents on a regular basis; the influential values-oriented workplace culture of the company helped me know that I was working for an organization whose work I deeply believed in.

How does the work of Thomas Thor Associates relate to sustainable development?

To understand the connection between Thomas Thor and sustainable development, it is important to understand the vital role that nuclear will play in getting us to a zero-carbon future. In the U.S., nuclear currently generates more electricity than all other renewables combined, and it is our only market-ready source of zero-carbon baseload energy. Thomas Thor helps the nuclear industry continue its contribution to our sustainable future by supporting both operators of traditional nuclear reactors and creators of new nuclear technology. Examples of the latter include what are called small modular reactors (SMRs), which are portable, manufactured reactors that can be located almost anywhere and have a far lower investment barrier than traditional reactors. Suppose a market-ready SMR is created in the next decade or so. In that case, it could make the path to a zero-carbon future vastly easier, especially for developing countries that lack the capital for the creation of traditional nuclear reactors.

What skills/knowledge are you using from the sustainable development  program for your internship?

I couldn’t have done this internship without the sustainable development program! Last fall I took Professor Gerrard’s Energy Regulation class at the law school, which gave me a depth of background knowledge about the energy industry in general, as well as specifics about the nuclear industry that allowed me to hit the ground running. I also utilized a number of government-research skills that I gained in Professor Dale’s Environmental Policy and Governance class. More broadly, the program prepared me by facilitating conversations, in and outside of the classroom, with peers from a wide range of backgrounds about energy and sustainability issues. These communication skills were invaluable in a multinational energy-focused organization.

How does the internship relate to your studies and what you plan to do post-graduation?

After graduation, I hope to work for a mission-driven organization that aims to help the national or global transition to a more sustainable future. However, I’m not sure if I want that organization to be a public or private one. This internship helped show me what working in a mission-motivated corporate environment can look like. I’m government-oriented by training, but this internship was an excellent reminder of the vital role that the private sector will play in determining our future. When I resume classes this fall, I will do so with a renewed interest in how such knowledge can apply to the private sector.

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