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Michelle Henry

Non-Destructive Testing Technician
Ontario Power Generation
Michelle Henry
Michelle Henry
Location Now
Education Pathway

I inspect metal parts on nuclear reactors to make sure they are in good working order.

About me

I was born/grew up in: Trinidad and Tobago, West Indies. I grew up in Trinidad and moved to Canada a number of years ago.

I now live in: North Oshawa, Ontario.

I completed my training/education at: I completed the training for my position at CINDE at Mohawk College in Hamilton. In this trade you complete different certifications or “tickets” that qualify you to do different types of testing.

What I do at work

I work in the Advanced Inspection and Maintenance (AIM) group. As a Non-Destructive Testing (NDT) technician, I do a variety of jobs. For example, in the reactor, the feeder pipes carry water into and out of the reactor to cool the system. Every two plus years a reactor is shut down for testing and maintenance. We call this an outage. During an outage, I may perform ultrasound tests for thinning on the reactor feeder pipes. This will show me if there is any thinning of the metal on the feeder pipes in the area scanned. By code, the walls of the pipes need to be a certain thickness. Ultrasound testing lets us measure the thickness. We use a specialized testing tool called an ultrasound bracelet. Tests are carried out every two plus years. We record how much it has worn since the last test. Based on this, our engineering department can calculate how much it will wear before its next test. If it is below the minimum thickness, or will be below before the next test, the pipe will be replaced (feeder replacement). That way we prevent accidents from happening.

At other times I perform visual clearance checks. We use “go/no go gauges” to measure the clearance between the components. These gauges are different sizes (i.e., 1/16, 1/8, 1/4 inch).  In our procedure there are guidelines depending on the amount of clearance between the components.  We check to make sure nothing hits or rubs against each other. If metal parts are rubbing against each other, it could cause the metal to become thinner at the contact point and may start to leak. This could cause an accident.  If it looks like they might be rubbing we will put a chafing shield between them to prevent rubbing (fretting).

From May to August I travel to other non-nuclear electricity generating stations (renewable generating stations). I use my same skills to make sure the metal parts are safe for use. I work as part of a large AIM team. It’s like a large family. We work together and support one another. We always have each other’s backs to make sure we are safe on the job.

My career path is

When I finished high school I went to university to study law.  I did this for two years but it was not for me. I completed a diploma in Human Resources. I worked at this for a while but it was not satisfying. I started work at OPG in a clerical role. Then moved into a civil role in Janitorial.  During planned maintenance shutdowns (outages), OPG provides workers with the opportunity to take on different jobs. I took the chance and went to learn the inspection filed.  This is where I found the job that I knew was for me. 

One of my supervisors encouraged and supported me to pursue this line of work. As a result, I went to CINDE College for my education for my tickets in NDT methods. My field experience was at the OPG Darlington Quality Control department. I continued to work at OPG and during planned outages, I got to do NDT work. I continued to study for the different NDT tickets and worked at it during the outages. After about 10 years, a permanent positon opened up and here I am!

With every career there are failures and challenges. NDT certification takes time to become fully ticketed in any of the NDT methods of inspections. I looked at my long term goal. With any failure there is a positive side and you keep moving towards your goal. Challenges are stepping stones for me. I apply this to my work life and my personal life.

I am motivated by

My career has many different aspects to it. My job changes from time to time and as I work at different plants or on different projects within the AIM group. The variety of jobs that I get to do keeps it interesting and exciting. I enjoy the many different areas I get to work in and the many people I get to work with on both the nuclear and non-nuclear side of OPG. I love working outdoors and get to do that when I am working on the non-nuclear energy production side. I also get to work with many different people during shutdown periods or outages. It’s like having a large family. For example, I’ve worked with 100’s of contractors over the years. I keep in personal contact with almost half of them.  I see a lot of them when they return to our programs to work with us during outages.

How I affect peoples’ lives

My career at Ontario Power Generation (OPG) has been evolving over the last 13 plus years. As a NDT Tech we inspect metal components for cracks in the part. These cracks are called indications. Early detection of this type of flaw can eliminate any potential damage to the equipment. If a metal part fails, or does not do the job it was designed to do, it could have serious effects on the station or people. We measure thickness of the feeder pipes in the reactor so that the station can estimate the "life" of the feeder tubes. If needed they will replace them before there is a potential leak. You could say my job protects the people working at OPG, and the people living nearby, from harm.

Outside of work I

If you ask anyone who knows me they will tell you I don’t know how to relax (lol). I do relax but maybe not in the same way as most. I find doing home renovations are relaxing. The satisfaction you get when you have completed your reno is amazing! But I do like hanging out in my backyard and listening to music. On beautiful days I love riding my motorcycle. I am also a UNION steward. In both my work and personal life, I am an advocate for mental health

My advice to others

I would say aim for the stars. NDT is an amazing career. While it takes a while to be fully qualified, it can take you all over the world to work. If you like to travel, and want to work with people who will become your friends, this is a great career. And, there are lots of good paying jobs available! In the end, make sure what you do makes you happy. It took me awhile to find my place, but now that I have I can’t think of doing anything else!

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Art
  • Physical Education / Health
  • Music
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Always wanted to be outside
  • Liked helping people
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Played on a sports team
  • Enjoyed working with my hands
  • Was motivated by success
  • Liked being given free range to explore my ideas
  • Engaged in volunteer activities
  • Was really creative
  • Never wanted to be in the classroom
  • Always threw the best parties
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Learned best "by doing"

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