I spend a lot of my time involved in the formulation, editing and reviewing of guides, technical reports and training material to aid member states to safely and effectively implement their environmental remediation programmes to reduce exposures to environmental radioactivity. I also organise and attend meetings of international experts to help us put together this material as it’s very important to get a truly global view of any topic we publish material on.
Since the tragic events of March 11th 2011, I’ve also been involved in providing support to my Section’s efforts to assist our Japanese colleagues.
Nuclear is not the only industry to tout controversy, defence, media, oil and gas and banking are others to name a few. I think for nuclear we have had an image problem linked to the very secretive way in which our industry worked for many years. I feel it is my duty to be as open about the industry as I can, and talk about what we do with my friends and family and the wider community to try and break this perception.
"Atoms for Peace" remains the Agency’s motto to this day and by statute, the IAEA seeks "to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world." It is true to say that most of the nuclear industry today grew from military programmes of the middle-20th Century. The massive impact of nuclear weapons on modern history is indisputable and they continue to shape the world today.
I think it’s important to recognise that society has received huge benefits from the clean energy produced since civil nuclear generation started in the 1950s. But we’ve been able to go further than electricity, for instance the radioisotope thermonuclear generator originally developed during the Cold War has powered many of the satellites which increase our understanding of the universe and the work to create synthetic radionuclides has massively advanced nuclear medicine which started with Marie and Pierre Curie’s pioneering work with radioactivity over 100 years ago.
In my mind, over the next ten years we’ll see nuclear new build and I hope to see a new station online by 2021. My interests though are mainly related to decommissioning and the UK Government has placed a lot of emphasis on legacy nuclear sites, so the next 10 years will see a lot of activity in this area, with key decommissioning projects being accelerated.
The best thing about my job is the international aspect of living in Vienna and working with the IAEA, I’ve lost count of the number of different nationalities who I’ve worked and socialised with, it’s such a diverse environment. Although, whilst it’s great to be working in the Agency and getting a global view, I miss working actually on nuclear sites and getting involved with work ‘at the chalk face.’
There are plenty of opportunities in the nuclear industry, but not always in the most ‘central’ locations, so you must be geographically flexible. It sounds obvious, but do your homework, the industry is a complex web of different organizations which all work together, but you should take care to direct your applications at organisations which will suit you. Think carefully about whether you would like to work on a nuclear site, or for a consultancy company supporting their client site? Or perhaps you might like to choose a graduate programme like nucleargraduates which allows you to try both.