Originally created 09/01/02

Nuclear family adjusts to U.S.



AIKEN - It didn't take Bruno Huguet long to become plugged in, or branche, as the French say, to his new American lifestyle.

As an engineer, he has a knack for assessing the way things work, and if something doesn't quite connect, he's good at making adjustments.

So far, his transition to the United States has gone smoothly.

Mr. Huguet (pronounced Hew-GAY), 41, is the first of his countrymen tapped from French-based COGEMA to move to Aiken as part of the MOX fuel fabrication project. In all, eight French families will move to the Aiken area for the project.

"We decided this year to buy a house," said Mr. Huguet, who arrived in Aiken in April 2001. His family had renteda home last year after their arrival from Grenoble, in the French Alps.

In their new neighborhood near Montmorenci, they have more of a feel for the country. Their home also has a feel of settled-in warmth, although the Huguets maintain a residence in France, where they stay on vacations.

"I don't know how this project will go," Mr. Huguet said when asked to speculate about his future in the United States.

The MOX project is scheduled to last until 2019, but he knows the Department of Energy's policies can change with administrations. Rather than worrying about the future, Mr. Huguet is enjoying his work and the assimilation.

He drives a Ford Windstar minivan each day to his office off Hitchcock Parkway. The van has a bumper sticker identifying him as a proud Kennedy Middle School parent.

His job as a consulting equipment engineer makes him a leader in the construction planning.

What works electrically in France doesn't necessarily work in the United States. Parts are not always compatible. Procedures for the MOX facility will have to be adapted.

Mr. Huguet's skills at adaptation seem to run in the family. His wife, Michelle, also is an engineer. They met in 1986 at what they acknowledge is a fairly unromantic setting: under a crane at COGEMA's La Hague plant.

Since the family moved from France, Mrs. Huguet has taken charge of the family's transition, although she hopes to return to her career when the time is right.

At first, the children, especially Elodie, now 13, were reluctant to move from their homeland. She and her brother, Arnaud, 11, gained fluency in English within months, however, helping them fit in. Participation in extracurricular activities sped the process.

Elodie takes ballet, and Arnaud likes baseball.

Mr. and Mrs. Huguet attend classes twice a week to brush up on their English.

Asked individually whether they desire to become U.S. citizens, Mr. and Mrs. Huguet both answered: "Why not?"

THE HUGUETS

FAMILY: Engineers Bruno and Michelle Huguet have two children, Elodie, 13, and Arnaud, 11.

MR. HUGUET'S ROLE WITH MOX: Consulting equipment engineer

FAMILY PASTIMES: Mr. Huguet, astronomy and guitar; Mrs. Huguet, painting, scrapbooks, piano; Elodie, ballet; Arnaud, baseball and video games

Reach Eric Williamson at (803) 279-6895 or eric.williamson@augustachronicle.com.