2002 Distinguished Service Award: John Cowan

// Engineering Physics

Tags: alumni, Engineers' Day, EP E-Day, John Cowan

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John Paul CowanJohn Paul Cowan
Senior Vice President
Nuclear Management Company
BSNE ’75

When the Nuclear Regulatory Commission delivered a poor review to the Florida Power Corporation’s Crystal River nuclear power plant, the company hired John Paul Cowan as one of two people to engineer a turnaround. Crystal River voluntarily shut down in 1996; Cowan and colleague Roy Anderson came on board in 1997 and began a 17-month, $310 million project to upgrade the 20-year-old plant. They instituted a new management style, opened the lines of communication throughout the plant and during the course of the project, inspected all of its 105 systems.

Crystal River reopened in early 1998 and Cowan remained chief nuclear officer at Florida Power until 2001, when the company merged with Carolina Power & Light. He now is senior vice president of operations at Nuclear Management Company, which operates eight nuclear plants in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

Cowan earned his bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering from UW-Madison in 1975, a master’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in 1982 and a law degree from Georgia State University in 1992.

During his 25-year career in the nuclear power industry, he has held a variety of positions, from lead engineer and eventually plant manager at General Electric Company to manager of events analysis at the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and vice president of operations and environmental support at Carolina Power & Light.

Cowan has been involved with the United Way and volunteered for the Friends of Homassa Springs Wildlife Park during his time at Florida Power.

He and his wife, Shirlee, have an 10-year-old daughter, Santanna. The three love to travel and recently have visited Paris, London, Boston, Atlanta and California. Cowan, who is a pilot and flight instructor, also works on the bodies of his nine cars, reads and landscapes in his spare time.