Lately, I've been traveling around North America visiting all types of power plants: Nuclear, coal-fired, and natural gas power plants. Nothing new in that as I've been doing this for the past 33 years. However, what is new is the number of chemists and I&C supervisors who have retired or will be retiring. People I've known and worked with for decades are no longer working at the plants and are being replaced with a much younger workforce.
There's nothing wrong with that; this is the natural course of careers winding down and others starting up. What is unusual is the lack of experience the newest chemists and I&C techs have when it comes to power plant water chemistry and the instrumentation used to monitor and maintain it. In the "old days," a young person joined a plant in an apprentice-type role learning the nuances of each generating unit during all seasons of the year. The elder Chemist or I&C Supervisor acted as a mentor for the younger worker so when the "oldster" came close to retirement, their replacement would be ready to fill their position with confidence and efficiency.
What I have observed is that young people are replacing retiring workers, but without the apprenticeship phase. This has created lots of confusion and extra work as the young chemist or I&C tech must learn the same best-practices their predecessors took years to acquire.
In some ways, this is also happening on the vendor side as small companies are acquired by larger companies and the larger companies no longer deem the Power Generation Market to be as lucrative as it once was. As such, resources to develop and support products are cut back and the end-user is left with lots of questions and very little help.
After celebrating our 50th Anniversary last year, we plan on being around for many years to come. If you're having issues in regards to power plant chemistry or analytical instrumentation, give us a call and we'll try to ease the burdens of running a power plant while learning on-the-job.