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Cook Nuclear Plant’s first plant manager passes away

by on September 25, 2013
The control room was packed with people on August 23, 1975, when Cook Unit 1 went critical for the first time.

(Story by Bill Schalk)

Bob Jurgensen, 38-year AEP employee and Cook Nuclear Plant’s original plant manager, passed away Sept. 19 in Worthington, Ohio. He retired from AEP in 1988. He was 89.

Jurgensen was a true pioneer in the nuclear industry. In 1953, he was assigned by AEP to study nuclear power at Argonne Labs in Chicago because the company was considering building an “atomic power plant.” He was there for two years, but went back to AEP’s Kammer Plant when the company decided not to build a plant right away. In 1959, he moved to Columbus to begin designing and planning for Cook. He moved to the site in 1966 when construction of the plant began.

He was interviewed in 2010 for a story about the 35th anniversary of the first nuclear chain reaction at Cook. He said the complexity of regulation for a nuclear plant surprised him compared to his previous work at coal plants.

“We got a rude awakening when things just mushroomed on us in terms of the required paperwork during construction and what it really took to build the plant,” said Jurgensen.

Jurgensen then took the helm as the first plant manager. Current Cook Director of Projects Paul Schoepf worked with him as a young engineer when AEP was still headquartered in New York City. “Bob was truly a special person to all who knew him,” said Schoepf. “We do a lot of things differently now than we did then, but those guys who started it all still had an incredible commitment to doing things right and safely.”

The Niles, Mich., native and Michigan State University graduate dates back to AEP before it was called AEP. He was hired by American Gas and Electric in 1949 at the Twin Branch coal plant.

A Memorial Service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25, at All Saints Lutheran Church, 6770 N. High Street, Worthington, where friends may call one hour prior to the service. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to All Saints Lutheran Church or a charity of choice.

From → Obituaries

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