Enthusiasm for innovation is key for nuclear's future, forum told

26 July 2022

Creating smoothies with a champion of the TV series Great British Bake Off was one of a series of exercises intended to inspire innovative and disruptive thinking to drive change, with nuclear innovation "not only about technical breakthroughs, but also about global process optimisation", the Global Forum for Nuclear Innovation was told.

Delegates were urged to become 'agents of change' (Images: NNL)

The event in London, hosted by the National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL), followed on from the forum held in 2019 in South Korea, with the aim being to inspire and "accelerate cultural and behioural transformation" in the nuclear industry.

Rob Whittleston, Director for International Engagement, Security and Non-Proliferation at NNL, said it was an honour to host the event, adding: "The sector must not only continue conversations about the benefits of nuclear as an integral part of our current and future society, but also face into how innovative and disruptive thinking is essential to make that a reality. We hope attendees have an even greater enthusiasm for innovation at all levels."

Keynote speaker Sama Bilbao y Leon, director general of World Nuclear Association, said people in the nuclear sector had to take responsibility for ensuring nuclear energy grows in the way the planet needs, even when some politicians or regulators or the media appear to not "understand how great nuclear is".

"We need innovation in the way we think, in the way we work, in the way we work together, in the way we communicate with others. We need to look outside of nuclear and incorporate promising disruptive approaches into our everyday work ... yes, the way we design, build and operate nuclear power plants, but also in the way we license them or regulate them, in the way we set up business models going from projects to projects, in the way we market a diverse set of products and services including, yes, electricity but also industrial heat, fresh water, hydrogen or lifesaving medical radioisotopes, or in the way we present ourselves to the world. And that responsibility to innovate lies with everyone."

To illustrate the possibilities of innovative and disruptive thinking, the Chief Data and Analytics Officer at England's National Health Service, Ming Tang, explained how they had challenged existing ways of working to get new data available during the pandemic - adding that those data developments had led to on-going benefits and helped the health service treat more people than it otherwise would have been able to.

Rahul Mandal, a research scientist at the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre who won the 2018 Great British Bake Off TV show, hosted a session on role models, where smoothie-making was a key ingredient, while academic and performer Jon Chase got his message across in rap.

Neil Wilmshurst, senior vice president of energy systems resources at the Electric Power Research Institute, said: "In 2019, my fellow co-organisers and I said this could not be a once-and-done effort. Accelerating nuclear technologies and changing traditional mindsets in this industry to drive innovation requires persistent, enduring collaboration at every level."

Ed Bradley, team leader for nuclear power plant operation and engineering support at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said: "Delegates at this year’s forum continued the journey begun in the Republic of Korea in 2019; focusing their attention on delivering innovations that help ensure nuclear power remains a reliable partner for a secure and sustainable future."

Philippe Guiberteau, special advisor for technology policy activities at the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency, said: "We really need to start thinking outside the box and to be inspired by other sectors, because nuclear innovation is not only about technical breakthroughs but also about global process optimisation. To drive change in the industry, we must challenge ourselves to adopt a holistic approach that can address the urgency of nuclear innovation for broader strategic objectives such as climate change."

The next Global Forum for Nuclear Innovation is due to take place in 2024.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News