U.S. nuclear energy is likely to grow rapidly over the next decade, and AREVA, the world’s largest nuclear energy technology provider, is expected to play a major role in this growth. If so, then as strategy director for AREVA’s North American division, Mari Angeles Major-Sosias ’85, MS ’92 could play a key role in reshaping the country’s nuclear energy industry.

Supported by a team of strategists representing AREVA’s key business operations in nuclear fuel production, spent fuel management, reactors and service, and power distribution and transmission, as well as specialists in communications, government relations and corporate marketing, she interprets the continent’s energy landscape, identifies opportunities and formulates a strategy that connects the dots.

“That’s the part of my job I like the most,” she says, “taking the pieces of the puzzle and making a complete picture.” One solution that recently emerged out of a collaboration between her strategy group and the enrichment business unit is the multi-billion-dollar uranium enrichment plant being built in Idaho that is slated to open in 2014.

A regionally coordinated approach like this is new for AREVA. Until 2006, the French company’s numerous North American businesses functioned separately and reported directly to Paris. Now a single North American umbrella corporation, AREVA Inc, coordinates with Paris and helps bridge the gap between the two cultures. “That is a critical part of my job,” said Mari Angeles.

Another critical part is building a strong case to support her recommendations. Often months of work will go into research and planning before a proposal is sent to Paris. If they are given the green light, the project is implemented by a dedicated group within AREVA Inc. “It’s a feeling similar to having a child, raising him to succeed, then sending him off to college to see if he can make it in the real world,” Mari Angeles jokes.

This wasn’t the career Mari Angeles envisioned for herself as a 20-year-old living in Golden. She earned a bachelor’s in geophysical engineering with a minor in geology and planned on pursuing a career in the oil industry. But with crude at $11 per barrel when she graduated in 1985, her options were limited. After a couple of years working as a geophysicist, she returned to campus for a master’s in mineral economics.

While pondering a thesis topic, she began working for a Denver-based company doing market analysis on rare earth and specialty metals. This exposure led to her thesis on niobium. After graduating in 1992, she continued analyzing rare earth metal markets, with an increasing emphasis in uranium. In 1997 she joined the Nuclear Energy Institute in Washington, D.C. Two years later she moved to U.S. Enrichment Corporation, formed when the Department of Energy privatized its uranium enrichment operations. Here she was tasked with managing the disposition of large inventories of uranium inherited from DOE into the global market without adversely impacting the global market.

Although equipped with an intimate knowledge of the global uranium market, her move to AREVA Inc. as director of strategy in 2006 meant understanding a much wider landscape, including uranium mining and enrichment, reactor construction and service, spent fuel recycling and storage, and power distribution and transmission:

“It was a big eye opener,” she admits.

On the other hand, she found it easy to adapt to the culture of a multinational company operating in 41 countries. With a Spanish mother and a diplomat father from Trinidad and Tobago, she grew up in many different countries and speaks four languages fluently. “I spoke English with my father and always studied in either British or American schools. Of course I spoke Spanish with my mother at home. And growing up mostly in Brazil, I learned Portuguese. French was my ‘second language’ through school, and at Mines my roommates were from France and Belgium, so I heard French all night long,” she said, laughing.

She’s enthusiastic about her company. She speaks of the AREVA Way, a corporate statement that defines a commitment to sustainable energy solutions. And she describes a sense of mission among those who work for AREVA to offer the world CO2-free energy solutions, and not just nuclear: there’s a growing emphasis on wind and biomass.

She’s similarly enthusiastic about Mines, speaking wistfully of playing intramural soccer and working to make International Day a significant annual campus event. This interest was fanned recently when she learned of Mines’nuclear engineering program during an alumni event in Washington DC. Told that the program would span the entire fuel cycle by combining the diverse expertise of departments across campus, she was impressed. “It mirrors just how AREVA is structured,” she said. “I was so excited I almost dropped my drink!”

Mari Angeles lives in Maryland with her husband Gary, a salsa musician and teacher. Their son, Alejandro (Alex), graduated high school this year and is now a freshman at Oswego State University of New York.