Carol Johnson was retired for all of four months before she got a call from Fluor Corporation asking her to become president and chief executive officer of Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the Savannah River Site’s management and operating contractor.
A chemistry graduate of Marshall University, Johnson accepted the position in May after former president Dwayne Wilson stepped down to take another job within Fluor Corporation.
With her new role, Johnson said two of her main goals are making SRS operations as high quality as possible and visibly promoting the Savannah River National Lab.
She also shared several challenges she is anticipating, which are meeting demands with aging infrastructure and filling the positions left behind by retiring employees.
In regards to infrastructure, Johnson said it’s no secret that SRS has had funding challenges. The goal is to improve the infrastructure so SRS can be a long-term solution for tasks, she said.
With aging employees, Johnson said the average age of an SRS employee is 54; within a few years, 50 percent of the workforce will be eligible for retirement.
“Not all of them will go out the door at age 58, but there will be a fairly significant population that will. So we’ve got a big challenge ahead to fill those shoes,” she said.
Johnson said her new role is fitting since her career began at SRS in 1981 under DuPont. She spent 21 years working in various areas of operation at the Site, including H-Canyon, fuel fabrication, and areas where plutonium was manufactured for the space program.
After her first stint at SRS, Johnson worked at various other sites, including the Los Alamos National Lab in New Mexico; Idaho National Lab; the Sellafield Site in the United Kingdom, where she was the executive director of the URS remediation project; and the Hanford Site in Washington.
While she enjoyed a lengthy career in various locations, she said coming back full circle to SRS seemed like the right move.
“Coming back is a great honor because I’m very reflective of the people who helped me and the training I’ve had,” Johnson said. “I just felt like coming back will be a great culmination of my experience and a strong way to end my career.”
Derrek Asberry is a beat reporter with the Aiken Standard.