Mark Offord, 26, is an engineer who works towards decommissioning the nuclear waste store at Sellafield. He graduated in 2002 with a civil engineering degree from Nottingham University.
What do you do in your job?
I work as part of the team that is decommissioning a spent nuclear fuel silo storage facility located at Sellafield. It involves taking the waste out of the facility and transferring it to a more modern one as the building it is currently housed in is around 50 years old. It is a long–term project that will take many years to complete and, in order to prepare the facility for the retrieval of waste, a lot of preliminary planning is required. My main area of work involves developing a design for seismic strengthening of a section of the facility. I co–ordinate and undertake design and analysis work, meet with stakeholders, and ensure we develop a practical and safe solution. As removing the waste will take around another 20 years, it is very important to make sure the building where it is stored now is as safe as possible.
What do you like about your job?
I like the industry, as it is unique in the engineering world. My work is challenging and the people I work with are focused, intelligent, and always willing to help with a problem. I also really enjoy making a difference. The work the project does makes a significant impact in reducing risk associated with stored nuclear waste, which helps improve the safety of lots of people.
What do you dislike about your job?
Throughout my short working life there have been a lot of changes in the organisation of the nuclear industry, and our business. Although I recognise that these are essential, and change will happen, I’ve found it is important to remain positive and to try to understand the benefits of the changes. There can be a lot of uncertainty but I don’t necessarily dislike it, more that I see it as part of working life. Also, when I started in the industry I was a little nervous about telling people what I did but I’ve never had any problems. Now I find it enjoyable to tell people about my job because, in many cases, they don’t really know anything about the industry.
What are the biggest challenges?
Nothing about my work is straightforward. Everything must always be thoroughly thought out to consider the full impact of what you have proposed. There are significant constraints associated with working in and around the facility, so developing solutions that are sympathetic to them is extremely challenging.
Advice to readers considering a job in your field:
Try and get some work experience before you graduate, so you can draw on it in the working world. Be keen, get involved and always try and understand why you are doing what you are doing, not just what you have to do to complete the task.