Diversity key to facing future nuclear industry challenges

01 February 2017

The nuclear energy industry must demonstrate improved gender diversity to ensure it has the best talent to meet the challenges it faces, speakers at the Women in Nuclear (WiN) UK conference in London said today.

"If we are to take advantage of all the available talent in our country, we should make sure that we actively promote our industry as an opportunity for all the talent that exists within our communities," said NuGen CEO Tom Samson. "Otherwise we are leaving behind an enormous talent pool which currently contains our future leaders, experts, operators, innovators, engineers, etc."

He said the industry needs to improve its diversity profile across all aspects of the business. Women, he said, should be actively encouraged to participate in STEM (science, technology, engineeirng and maths) subjects, especially whilst at school. Samson said the industry should "explain to them the career prospects and opportunities in our industry and consider how we position ourselves to that particular target audience. We need more talent focused on STEM subjects to build and grow our industry."

Samson said, as a relatively new company, NuGen has "something of an advantage in that we have got a blank canvas". Therefore, he said, the company can focus on building an organization from the ground up, with the systems and support to encourage and support diversity and inclusiveness.

He said the industry needs to demonstrate improved gender diversity in order to attract the best talent available.

Paul Spence, director of strategy and corporate affairs at EDF Energy, said the case for diversity is obvious. "The scale of the challenges we are facing as a company and as an industry - whether extending the lives of existing nuclear stations, building Hinkley on time and budget, the goverment bringing small modular reactors, developing battery storage - are enormous challenges," he said. Spence said we need to tap into the diverse range of skills in order to face those challenges.

Spence said the nuclear industry has in place a system for ensuring safety. "Why aren't we equally systematic if we want to achieve diversity?" he asked. "It's the same set of things that we have to do. We have some policies, have some symbolic actions, have some measures, act when we are off-track, in some cases address the behaviours of people who aren't acting, make sure that the leadership and middle management keep saying it and the team on the ground see that the behaviour and rheotoric line up."

Samson added the industry needs to "demonstrate environments in the organizations that exist in our industry where openness, communication, collaboration, inclusivity typically are ingredients of how we function. A lot of those things are instrinsicly tied to nuclear safety."

Sarah Cole, submarine naval architect with the UK's Ministry of Defence, said the entire industry has a role to play in improving gender diversity. "We all have a role to play irrespective of whether you're in a senior or middle management, male or female ... We all have a place in committing to that change," she said.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News