New Chief Nuclear Officer – Kimberly Cook-Nelson

This Women’s History Month, we are celebrating women who have joined the ranks of Chief Nuclear Officers. Despite the great strides toward diversity over the past several decades, women have only recently joined the nuclear C-suite. In 2014, Maria Korsnick [] became the first woman to be Chief Nuclear Officer while she worked at Exelon Nuclear, and in 2019, Maria Lacal [] of Arizona Public Service became the second woman to be Chief Nuclear Officer. Since then, we have seen a small handful of women promoted to this position. The article below highlights Kimberly Cook-Nelson of Entergy, who was promoted to be Chief Nuclear Officer in 2022.

Kimberly Cook-Nelson
Kimberly Cook-Nelson

Kimberly began her career in 1996 as a design engineer at Waterford 3 Steam Electric Station, later moving to the nuclear safety analysis group. She moved into plant leadership in 2001 as a mechanical maintenance first-line supervisor, followed by operations, receiving her senior reactor operator license in 2003.

In addition, she held other leadership positions in system engineering, continuous improvement, and nuclear safety assurance. She was general manager of plant operations at Waterford 3 from 2011 to 2014. In 2016, Kimberly moved to Entergy Nuclear headquarters as vice president, operations support, where she was accountable for line corporate functional area managers, training, performance improvement, organizational effectiveness and business planning. She also completed a rotational assignment at the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, where she qualified and functioned as an organizational effectiveness team leader and a corporate evaluator.

In her current role as chief nuclear officer, Kimberly is responsible for the safe, secure and reliable operations of Entergy’s four nuclear power plants and five reactors located in Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi. Entergy Nuclear is headquartered in Jackson, Mississippi. As a member of the company’s office of the chief executive, she is also engaged in building and strengthening relationships with external stakeholders.

We asked Kimberly the following questions: 

  • What are you most excited about regarding your new role? I am so excited about what is in front of us.  As the world decides what our de-carbonized future will look like, I feel confident that nuclear will play a big role.  The world is looking at us with an appreciation that we have not seen in decades and that makes our future bright… not only for my generation but many generations in front of us. I am excited to be a part of that, preparing our fleet for a longer life of our current assets and developing the leaders that will bring that future into reality.
  • What motivates you? My team… my whole team. All ~3800 of them. I entered leadership many years ago because I wanted to make a difference – a positive impact on my teammates and our work environment. That is still the case today. It is sometimes harder to see that direct impact as I can’t touch everyone every day, but I know it is there and it is still my goal every day in everything I do.
  • Did you ever have a pivotal moment in your career? Absolutely. After 27 years in this industry, I have had a few. The one I will highlight actually occurred before I came here. My first job out of college was for a medical center, working in facilities. After a time, I had learned most of the job, and it started to become very repetitive or “routine”. Also, as I looked at where else I might go to learn, in the department there was only one different position, my boss’s, and he was in his 40’s, not planning to go anywhere soon. While there were some upsides to the position, I realized that I was not happy. I needed to learn, I needed to be challenged, I like to stay busy… so I left. And I ended up at Waterford 3, and we know there is nothing “routine” in nuclear power. Every day brings a new challenge. There are so many opportunities to do new and different things. We are challenged every day. I never looked back as my career at Entergy has been amazing, and I thank my lucky stars that I made that decision, that day… while Waterford 3 was hiring!
  • What is the benefit you believe U.S. Women in Nuclear (and your company’s chapter, if applicable) provides in your company? There is so much. Internally, there is the network of support and the personal development that I see the ladies in WIN benefit from. Externally, I will bring it back to an extension of the first answer… our future is bright, and we need help. We need to be recruiting young folks into our industry. We need to continue educating our communities on the benefits of nuclear power. I see from our WIN chapters that WIN does very well in both of these and we need that now more than ever!
  • Is there anything you want to say to the members of U.S. Women in Nuclear? Yes. There is so much I would love to share — I will pick just one. I often get asked by women about career development. Some ladies I talk to feel they are not being developed or they are not being shepherded down a path. A couple of things I have learned throughout my career are that you are the owner of your career, and that you don’t get what you don’t ask for. And sometimes you have to ask a few times. I encourage all of you to ensure you have a solid individual development plan, that your supervisor and your supervisor’s supervisor know what is in it and that you drive it. This can be about working to get to the next level, or it can be about being the best version of “you” in your current position. Regardless, when we talk about fostering a culture of continuous improvement, that applies to us personally, too. I still have a development plan, and my boss knows exactly what is in it… because I shared it. And it is related to being the best version of me that I can be in my current role. Never stop developing and never stop learning.