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February 2013

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Georgia Foreman Doubles as Wildlife Adventurer

Once nuclear power plants get going, they don't stop. It's one of their advantages. But as with any large construction project, an array of events can be expected. Some you plan for. But some you just don't see coming.

When a swarm of bees landed on a small plastic pipe near the shop where members of Augusta, Ga., Local 1579 were assisting in the pre-fabricating of modules for two additional reactors at the Vogtle Electric Generating Plant on the Savannah River, safety managers at The Shaw Group needed to act.

"We couldn't take the chance that a craft or trade member would be up on a ladder working and be swarmed by bees," said Nathaniel Addison, a 32-year Local 1579 member and foreman on the job says. Ironically, his employer didn't have to go far for help.

Addison, a part-time beekeeper who plans to work full time producing honey when he retires, sprayed the bees with water to weigh down their wings and bring them closer together. Then he shook the swarm into a bucket, covered it with wire mesh and transported the bees back to his home where they could build a new hive.

"I grew up with six sisters who were always volunteering me for all kinds of jobs," says Addison, who was asked a few years ago to help control bees in the yard of a sister's friend. He found an expert on bees to help solve the problem and was hooked.

"Georgia is a bee state," says Addison, who has kept bees for four years and sells honey to those who savor the sweet stuff. Many claim that the honey helps them build immunity to local flora that triggers allergies. As the only certified beekeeper in the Augusta area, Addison would love to provide honey to golfers who show up for the Masters annual pro golf tournament and are bothered by reactions to the pine trees bordering the fairways.

Addison worked on Plant Vogtle's original reactors in the early 1970s. During slow times in Georgia, he traveled to cities across the United States for work — New York, Alabama, Phoenix and others. "I love meeting new people," says Addison, who started his own contracting business in the late 1990s after receiving his state master's license. "I was treated well on the road and I try to return the favor when travelers come to Augusta." And come they will. While the nuclear project has so far peaked at 90 electricians and is expected to reach 800.

Addison, who is taking flight lessons and hopes to get a pilot's license, has let his practical but adventurous spirit carry him far beyond the nation's borders. He traveled to Egypt in the early 1990s to work as a high-voltage technician, instructor and site manager.

After closing his business in 2004, Addison, a Jehovah's Witness, traveled as a missionary to Ecuador for two years.

Addison's attention to detail and excellence in the trade is his calling card, says Local 1579 business manager Ken Ward. "I've known Nate for years," says Ward. "He's a first-class electrician who has made a real contribution to our local."

Plant Vogtle — the first nuclear reactor to break ground in three decades — has challenged Addison and his crews to adapt to newer methods of construction. Modules are being prefabricated in a climate-controlled atmosphere to minimize weather delays and improve productivity, a far different scene from the 1970s.

Breaking new ground and protecting the future are the links between Addison's tool belt, his beekeeper's suit and his union identity. Every year, he attends classes sponsored by the Georgia Beekeeper's Association at Young Harris College in the mountains of north Georgia. There, his fellow beekeepers discuss how to combat a critical shortage of bees in the U.S. that is threatening the agricultural sector by reducing the pollination essential to production of foods like apples, pears, peaches and nuts.

"We can't continue to do things the same way [and maintain our bee population]," says Addison, who buys bees from Israel and Hawaii and puts them in the wild to help replenish their dwindling numbers, believed to be caused by a number of factors, including the widespread use of pesticides.

Looking out for the future — from producing more non-fossil fuel-based energy at Plant Vogtle to protecting nature's pollination gets Addison thinking about the bees — all of them — the ones he removes to protect people, the ones he nurtures to fight others' allergies, the ones who put tasty and nutritious food on our tables and the ones who sometimes sting him or are deliberately used to sting others to help relieve their arthritis.

"Bees do something quite remarkable," says Addison. When they gather nectar, it's always for the next generation, he says. "They are very unselfish. They literally work themselves to death for the benefit of those who come along after they are gone."


Nathaniel Addison, 32-year journeyman wireman foreman, puts his apiculture skills to work to keep bees from interfering with fellow members of Augusta, Ga., Local 1579 at the Plant Vogtle nuclear reactor project on the Savannah River.