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Nuclear Reactor Operator & Rock Climber Brian Howe



He spent eight and a half years in the Navy, rock climbed both in and outside of the United States and performed his first startup at the controls of a nuclear reactor at the age of 19. He is double majoring in Global Business and Information Systems Management. His name is Brian Howe and he is no ordinary guy.


Photo Courtesy of Brian Howe



Brian owes his enriching experiences in rock climbing to a spur-of-the-moment decision he made while traveling to Nepal: Intrigued by the mountain landscape, he felt a deep desire to explore it and strengthen his connection with nature.


“I started to climb indoors to learn the basics and still do for training purposes, but for me nothing replaces the feeling of touching the rock. When I’m climbing, there’s nothing else in the world but the rock and myself. I’m completely out of my element and forced to adapt, to work with the landscape to achieve my goal,” he said.


Through climbing, Brian has connected with many advocacy groups. He is even a member of the Access Fund & American Alpine Club, and he has lobbied Congress to preserve many sites of natural significance, most recently Southeast Utah.


Perhaps rock climbing has been especially beneficial to Brian in winding down from his long hours of working with nuclear reactors in the Navy. During training, he spent six months learning electrical theory, six months learning nuclear physics and chemistry alongside materials and nuclear systems, and another six months of hands-on training at a training reactor facility in Upstate New York. The training program he went through is roughly equivalent to three to four years of college curriculum and consisted of 10 to 16 hours a day for five days a week at a minimum. From there, he went to the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis where he spent four years as a reactor operator and maintenance technician – before being quickly promoted to supervising all system maintenance of electrical equipment that directly controlled reactor and safety monitoring systems.


“The job itself isn’t quite as exciting as it sounds. It consisted of extremely long hours staring at schematics larger than most people’s dining room tables, trying to figure out why a system wasn’t working the way it was supposed to, flipping through thousands of pages of technical manuals that detail components,” he said.


However, Brian expressed that the job had its moments of exhilaration.


“True excitement only happened when things actually went wrong, but meant that the next 48 to 72 hours would be long and without sleep since every piece of equipment I owned was mission-critical for the reactor to be online. This was especially true when performing flight operations in the Persian Gulf where a loss of a reactor plant meant limiting flight operations that supported troops on the ground whose life very often depended on it,” he said.


Brian is a big supporter of renewable energy, and he believes that there are ways we can use natural renewable energy to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels.


“Nuclear power is an excellent short term solution, but is often demonized in the media and it’s easy to do because people aren’t really exposed to it in an educational sense. There are certainly challenges that need to be overcome, but it is one of the cleanest energy forms in terms of carbon emissions and provides the highest output capacity at a reliable rate, something that wind and solar are struggling to achieve. The world population is increasing at large rates, and many developing countries are becoming more modern and urban and because of this, will require large amounts of power generation to meet this need. People often forget that part of bringing people into our complex and modern society comes at a cost, and there is no free lunch. Fossil fuels are extremely devastating to the environment and natural gas plants emit substantially more carbon that nuclear plants, including methane gasses that are often overlooked in environmental discussions. I’d love for there to be a day when nuclear power is no longer needed, but until technology evolves further, it seems unlikely in the near future,” he said.


Some fun facts about Brian:

1. Biggest role model is Tommy Caldwell, survivor of a hostage situation while traveling on one of his first climbing expeditions

Quote in regards to Tommy Caldwell:

“His passion for adventure and following his dreams to achieve impossible feats resonate deeply within me.”

2. One of his favorite climbs is Ouray, Colorado at the world’s largest ice park

3. Hopes to attend graduate school after completing his degree at USFSP and eventually move out West to work as an analyst in the tech industry



Here at USFSP Her Campus, we hope to hear more about Brian Howe’s adventures and triumphs across the globe.


His hard work, persistence and dynamic nature are admirable to all of us, and we have no doubt that he will achieve greater feats yet.


HC with care,


Megan Hammer

Megan Hammer is a junior at USFSP and is majoring in Global Business. She loves to travel, write, and listen to music. She is a musician herself, so she enjoys playing with other musicians in her spare time. An Illinois native, she is interested in experiencing different cultures and trying new things. Some places she has traveled to include Monaco, France, Germany, Italy, and England. Megan is constantly on the lookout for her next great adventure. She dreams of joining a volunteer service organization and giving time to communities in South America or Africa. As President & Campus Correspondent, she proudly represents the USFSP Her Campus chapter.
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