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Lacal becomes first woman to lead operations at 3.3-GW Palo Verde nuclear plant

Maria Lacal

Later this month, Maria Lacal becomes part of an extremely rare group: women who run nuclear operations at a major utility.

Arizona Public Service previously announced that Maria Lacal, currently senior vice president of regulatory and oversight, will succeed Bob Bement effective January 21. APS operates the 3.3-GW Palo Verde Generation Station nuclear plant in Maricopa County.


Lacal will be the first woman ever to run operations at Palo Verde. She will be the second woman ever to be a chief nuclear officer nationwide, following Maria Korsnick at Exelon, who has since become president and CEO of the Nuclear Energy Institute.

“Maria has long been a trailblazer and I know she will bring incredible energy and passion to this role,” said Jeff Guldner, CEO at APS. “Her leadership skills and strong nuclear experience make her the right person to lead Palo Verde into the future. I am excited to work with her and the entire Palo Verde team on our mission to deliver clean, reliable and affordable energy to our customers.”

Lacal earned a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Miami. She completed the Harvard Business School Advanced Management Program in 2015.

She obtained a U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission senior reactor operator license in 1996. She also has chaired the Academy Council for the National Academy for Nuclear Training, and currently serves on the U.S. Women in Nuclear executive steering committee. She also serves on the national board of advisors for the Eller College of Business at the University of Arizona.

APS says that Palo Verde is the largest thermal power generation plant in the U.S., producing about 32 million MWh annually. It produces more carbon-free electricity than any other facility nationwide, according to the utility.

Bement has led operations at Palo Verde for the past four years. He joined APS in 2007 as vice president of site operations.

In addition to his Palo Verde tenure, Bement’s career includes leadership positions with Arkansas Nuclear One and Clinton Power Station and began in the U.S. Navy as a nuclear-trained electrician serving aboard submarines.

“I want to thank Bob for his tremendous leadership at the Palo Verde Generating Station and for his invaluable contributions to APS,” Guldner said. “Bob played an integral role in restoring Palo Verde to its rightful place as a top performer in the U.S. nuclear industry. We will miss his experience, wisdom and perspective on our executive team.”