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Progress Energy’s William Cavanaugh Receives Nuclear Energy Industry’s Top Leadership Award

NEW ORLEANS—William Cavanaugh III, Progress Energy’s recently retired chairman and chief executive officer, today received the nuclear energy industry’s top individual award, the William S. Lee Award for Industry Leadership. Cavanaugh was presented with the award at the Nuclear Energy Institute’s (NEI) annual conference here. The award recognizes leaders who have made an outstanding contribution to technical advancements, improved regulatory focus or public acceptance of nuclear energy.

“Bill Cavanaugh has proven himself to be a leader among leaders,” said George Hairston III, the new chairman of NEI’s board of directors and president and chief executive officer of Southern Nuclear Operating Co. “Like the individuals honored with this award before him, Bill is a true visionary who has translated his vision into reality. His accomplishments have benefited not just the companies he worked for, but the industry as a whole.”

In accepting the award, Cavanaugh said, “I am deeply honored to be chosen as the 2004 recipient of the William S. Lee Award for Industry Leadership. I have believed in the benefits of nuclear technology since my days in the U.S. Navy. The commercial nuclear energy industry has demonstrated its ability to provide clean, reliable and affordable power. Now, more than ever, it offers great potential around the world.”

Cavanaugh retired as CEO of Progress Energy in March and as chairman this month. In April, he was named chairman of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, becoming only the second American to serve as WANO chairman. He will assume his new post in July, having served 35 years at the top levels of the commercial nuclear energy industry.

Hairston pointed to Cavanaugh’s decisiveness and foresight in the area of plant refuelings as an example of leadership that has transformed the U.S. industry.

“In the mid-1980s, the average refueling outage for a U.S. nuclear power plant took about three months. It was in 1987 that Bill Cavanaugh, then CEO of System Energy Resources—part of what is now Entergy Corporation—decided to take on the issue of refueling outages,” Hairston said.

“Bill led a team from Mississippi’s Grand Gulf plant to Europe to learn how to simulate their success in completing outages in 30 to 40 days. He said, ‘We need to manage outages, rather than have them manage us.’”

Grand Gulf reduced its next outage time to 44 days from 60 days and, as a result of Grand Gulf’s experience, other Entergy plants soon completed outages in record times.

“That improvement in outage management is still going on, to the benefit of companies with nuclear plants around the country,” Hairston said.

Cavanaugh held other key posts at Entergy before becoming president and chief operating officer of Carolina Power & Light in 1992, chief executive officer in 1996 and chairman in 1999. He led the company’s transformation into Progress Energy in 2000.

When he took over at CP&L in 1992, the average capacity factor—a measurement of efficiency—at the company’s nuclear power plants was 46 percent. By last year, the average capacity factor for Progress Energy’s nuclear plants was above 95 percent.

“Throughout his career, Bill brought the same level of commitment and leadership to the industry as a whole that he applied to managing utilities,” Hairston said. “He has served on the executive boards of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations and our own NEI—which he was instrumental in creating—and will soon move on to lead the world nuclear organization.”

The William S. Lee Award for Industry Leadership was renamed in Lee’s honor following his death in 1996. Lee, one of the industry’s most vocal safety advocates, was chairman emeritus of Duke Power Co. when he died. Lee was the first recipient of the industry’s leadership award in 1995.


The Nuclear Energy Institute is the nuclear energy industry’s policy organization. This news release and additional information about nuclear energy are available on NEI’s Internet site at