Source: EM Update | Vol. 11, Issue 1; Contributor: Mike Butler | January 8, 2019
When it comes to leadership roles in DOE projects, Harold Conner is something of a legend. Over the span of 50 years, his talent, knowledge, and expertise have led to a diverse career across the DOE complex.
Now, he is using his vast experience to support the cleanup mission in Oak Ridge — where his career began.
Conner has worked at the gaseous diffusion plants in Paducah, Kentucky and Portsmouth, Ohio as well as the Idaho National Laboratory, the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
“Harold’s insight and perspective is incredibly valuable to our cleanup mission,” said Jay Mullis, manager of the Oak Ridge Office of EM. “We are very fortunate to have people with his level of experience and qualifications supporting our efforts locally.”
After working at other DOE sites, Conner returned to Tennessee, where he was recently named an American Institute of Chemical Engineers Fellow. Fellow represents the highest level of membership, and it is achieved only through election by the board of directors based on lifetime career achievements.
The son of school teachers, Harold was the first African-American student to enroll in engineering at the University of Tennessee–Martin, and in 1968, he became the first African-American to earn a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from the college. He later earned a master’s degree in chemical engineering and a doctorate in industrial and systems engineering.
While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Conner began his career as a co-op student at the former Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant (K-25 Site), now known as the East Tennessee Technology Park (ETTP). His entry-level co-op routine of working one quarter and going to school the next eventually earned him a fulltime job at Oak Ridge after graduating from the university.
Conner spent the next 33 years working in almost every facility at ETTP, eventually being named K-25 site manager and later vice president of environmental management and enrichment facilities. In that latter role, Conner managed 3,000 workers and a $500 million budget for operations in Oak Ridge, Paducah, and Portsmouth.
A career veteran of multiple nuclear projects, Conner currently serves as senior adviser to UCOR President and Chief Executive Officer Ken Rueter. UCOR is the Oak Ridge cleanup contractor.
In addition to his recent Fellow designation, Conner has been awarded the prestigious University of Tennessee Alumni Professional Achievement Award and the Secretary of Energy Award of Achievement. He is also a member of the advisory board of the University of Tennessee Nuclear Engineering Department.