Education and qualifications:
MSc Nuclear Science and Technology, University of Manchester (NTEC)
MPhys Physics (undergraduate degree with integrated Masters), University of Manchester
Nuclear Safety Inspector
Office for Nuclear Regulation
What inspired you to become an engineer or pointed you towards an engineering career?
I’ve always been interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects and how the world we live in works. During my undergraduate Physics degree, I found myself drawn towards the applied science side of the subject, focusing on applied nuclear physics. This continued in my postgraduate studies, and then the step into an engineering role, putting my knowledge into practice influencing the design of new nuclear facilities, was an easy one to make.
Please describe your role or position within your workplace.
I’m a Nuclear Safety Inspector in the Nuclear Internal Hazards and Site Safety (NIHSS) specialism within the Office for Nuclear Regulation. I specialise in internal hazards assessment, particularly nuclear fire, as well as assessing compliance with life fire safety legislation.
Can you describe a typical working day?
My days are generally quite varied. In addition to a lot of legal and technical training, my work falls into a few broad categories.
I assess nuclear installation licensee submissions in support of regulatory decisions on permission grants. So I might be reviewing safety case claims and the supporting analysis presented by licensees in support of new activities, operations or construction. I provide specialist internal hazards and fire advice and recommendations to help the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) to decide whether it is safe and appropriate to lift hold points (a set of project checkpoints specified by ONR that require regulatory consent to progress past) and grant permissions.
I also plan and deliver inspections on licensed sites, currently focusing on Sellafield and decommissioning sites. This includes assessing emergency exercises, determining compliance with nuclear site license conditions and auditing compliance with life fire safety legislation - which is concerned with the protection of people, rather than nuclear fire safety which is the protection of nuclear systems, components and structures from fire - via plant walkdowns and discussions with site personnel.
Finally, I help to manage and report on research projects that the ONR is engaged in such as the Fire Propagation in Elementary, Multi-room Scenarios (PRISME3) international fire experiment.
Are there any particular challenges or unusual aspects to your role?
It can be challenging developing an informed regulatory view on technical safety aspects of a project from an outside position. It was interesting getting used to the sampling approach we use at ONR and accepting that I’m not going to be able to read everything in a safety case or design.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
I enjoy the variety - I get to visit a wide range of interesting sites and plants and engage with projects across the nuclear industry.
Is there a great professional achievement or high-profile accomplishment that you would like to tell us about?
I’ve been lucky to work on a number of fantastic projects. A highlight is seeing the areas of Hinkley Point C that I helped to design or analyse, moving from 3D models to real life structures at Europe’s largest construction site.
What contributed to your decision to become professionally registered?
Coming from a nuclear physics background I recognised that achieving Chartered Engineer (CEng) status would help me to demonstrate my competence in the engineering world. In my previous role, I managed and mentored several junior engineers in a similar position, and the CEng competencies were a good benchmark for planning their development as well as my own.
In what ways has registration benefitted your career?
Chartered status is a common development benchmark and helped me to progress when I worked as a consultant, improving my credibility to clients and colleagues. Now my CEng helps to demonstrate to the industry that I understand the engineering aspects of the projects and plants I regulate, and encourages me to be continually developing as an engineer.
How does your employer benefit from your professional registration?
My professional registration helps my employer by giving confidence to the duty holders that we regulate that I am technically competent.
Is there any advice you would pass on to someone considering professional registration?
Start early and use the competences listed in UK-SPEC to inform your choices of projects and roles. Find a mentor or someone who has been through the process and can support you and answer your questions. Don’t worry about not having an MEng degree!
Where do you see yourself in your career in five years’ time or what are your future ambitions?
I see myself developing as an inspector and getting out to as many different nuclear sites as I can. Long term I’m keen to support civil nuclear new build in the UK.
Outside work, is there any activity you enjoy doing in your spare time that relates to engineering? For example, do you participate in mentoring, volunteering or membership of other engineering groups?
I recently joined the committee of the Institute of Physics (IOP) nuclear industry group, and will be looking to share knowledge across the industry and publicise the interesting work that goes on. I also enjoy speaking at events and recently presented on nuclear fire modelling at an Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE) seminar.