Being a health physicist in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers means working in a demanding environment and carrying out multiple missions all aimed at keeping workers and the public safe.
That’s what makes it the most dynamic field of engineering, said Julie Clements, a health physicist in Huntsville Center’s Environmental and Monition’s Center of Expertise, Environmental Sciences Division in Omaha, Neb.
No two days are ever the same. Some days, she is in the office performing reviews of project plans and reports or writing guidance. Some days, she is in the field overseeing a contractor’s work or performing her own radiation survey on a project.
Clements said she also wears a number of hats while performing her job. She makes sure everyone is following necessary safety rules and regulations that govern the handling of radioactive material on various programs and projects. She provides technical assistance to Corps of Engineers districts, ensuring that health physicist support is always available whenever needed. She serves as the Corps’ radiation safety staff officer, ensuring the Corps’ Radiation Safety Program is compliant and protective of Corps employees. Lastly, she also serves as the Corps’ representative on various Army and Department of Defense radiation safety committees.
What I love most about my job is that I get to enjoy a great deal of variety in projects,” Clements said. “I have worked on projects ranging from the cleanup of depleted uranium on a Department of Defense firing range, to decontaminating Navy ships that were in the Fukushima plume, to radon measurements in dam adits, to dismantlement of nuclear reactors for the U.S. Department of Energy and the NASA. Having this variety in projects is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my job.”
While the EM CX directly supports all four of the USACE Campaign Plan Goals, Clements said she focuses on Goal 1: Support the War fighter; she delivers innovative, resilient and sustainable solutions to DoD and the nation to better protect people and reduce the impact of radiation on the environment.
“My job contributes to the Corps’ success because the work I do lends consistency in how the Corps executes its cleanups,” Clements said. “Also, not all districts have a health physicist on staff. This often means the Radiation Safety Support team has to ensure health physics support is available and provide technical assistance to those districts when needed. We’re the experts on a cleanup site.”
Clements said performing her job isn’t always easy. The greatest challenge for her is to satisfy all stakeholders on each project. Stakeholders can include regulatory agencies, property owners, local politicians, community groups and members of the public. Often, stakeholders have opposing views and different opinions. Balancing the differing priorities and finding a solution that is agreeable to all can be quite a challenge.
“I specialize in radiation and its effect upon people and the environment. My job gives me an opportunity to find inventive ways to minimize the effects of radiation, to better protect people and reduce the impact on the environment,” Clements said. “Stakeholders are depending on me to deliver innovative, resilient and sustainable solutions for cleanup at our sites. Clearly communicating to all stakeholders how and why we are executing a cleanup in a particular manner is paramount to the Corps’ success,” she said. “I love that my job allows me to find new ways to protect our citizens and the environment.”