What’s it like to be a Nuclear Technical Analyst? How I Made It
John-Patrick Richardson is a Technical Analyst at the National Nuclear Laboratory. Graduating with a BSc in Management Science and a MSc in Management, John-Patrick outlines his role in nuclear energy...
Briefly describe the organisation you work for
The National Nuclear Laboratory (NNL) is a nuclear technology services provider. The business specialises in providing customers with tailored solutions in a number of key areas including: nuclear science, waste and residue management, modelling and simulation, and environmental management.
How did you get your current job & what steps did you take after graduation?
After graduating with my master’s degree, I worked for a family business and then for Lloyds Private Banking Group before joining the NNL.
I received a call from a consultant at Morson International who saw my CV online whilst sourcing applicants for a vacancy within the NNL’s Operational Research team.
I joined the NNL on an initial six-month probation period after successfully passing the interview process. I was made a full-time member of staff on completion of this trial period.
How relevant was your subject of study in securing your current job?
I know that having an operational research degree was a major advantage in securing this job. I received feedback from my Technical Team Leader (who was also my interviewer), who told me that they knew my degree had given me the right skills to work within the OR team.
The modules I studied as part of both degrees displayed my aptitude in using various analytical techniques and my ability to apply them in practical ways.
Describe a typical working day in your current job
The NNL makes bids to prospective customers by submitting proposals for projects from across the various business areas. Customers are usually companies within the nuclear industry, such as Sellafield Ltd.
I’m usually working on one or two projects in parallel at any one time. Scope and project costing are developed in conjunction with our project engineers, and then it’s the overall project team’s responsibility to complete those projects to the high standard expected by customers in accordance with agreed deadlines.
A recent project I worked on involved analysing the quality of data that exists over many years on the contents of a building at Sellafield; a site which contains legacy nuclear waste.
As part of this process, I used R software and various statistical techniques. Furthermore, I utilised systems engineering principles to recommend a way forward for decision makers at Sellafield Ltd, specifically in their choice of containers which would be used to retrieve (and eventually store) legacy nuclear waste from various locations within the Sellafield site.
How do you use your degree in your current job?
The skills I picked up from my degrees (both tangible and intangible) have been invaluable, as almost all of my projects involve operational research in some form.
I use statistical techniques to analyse data and I use soft methods to objectively assess the systems within other organisations so that I can model them accurately.
The Excel and WITNESS skills obtained from my operational research degree have also proved to be advantageous in allowing me to undertake projects more efficiently.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I never thought about a career in the nuclear industry before joining the NNL. However, gradually learning and understanding how valuable it is for the UK to properly deal with legacy nuclear waste is incredibly rewarding.
Ensuring the safe and efficient running of nuclear new builds in the UK makes my daily job a very enriching one. To that end, I feel that my job really helps to make a difference.
What are the most challenging parts of your job?
Understanding the technical and scientific nuances of the nuclear industry has been really challenging, as I didn’t have any background in those areas before joining the NNL.
I believe that operational research is a discipline that can be applied to virtually any system or area of life, but an OR practitioner must also learn to understand the area and industry in which they are applying those techniques.
Consequently, improving my understanding of the industry has been an ongoing but enjoyable challenge.
Which skills do you consider to be essential for your job?
In order to fully understand a problem, it’s essential that you have the ability to step outside that problem and view it from an objective viewpoint.
People skills are also essential, as working directly for customers means that you have to communicate effectively with them throughout the course of any project to ensure that deliverables meet and exceed their expectations.
What influenced your career choice?
I had been looking to join a variety of graduate development schemes and graduate jobs since leaving university. Choosing to join NNL was made much more attractive by the knowledge that I would be part of a dedicated operational research team from day one; an opportunity that would draw on the original interest I’d developed in operational research ever since choosing the subject for my bachelor’s degree.
What are your future career plans?
I hope to continue to progress both within the OR team and within the wider NNL enterprise over the coming years. I have recently been nominated to join the NNL’s Emerging Manager Development Programme, which I hope will further progress my understanding of the nuclear industry and visibility within the company. I have been involved in a variety of interesting projects during my first 20 months, and I hope that will continue to be the case in the future.
This article was provided by The OR Society
Image courtesy of Pixabay user Burghard, 'nuclear power plant 261119'
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