Learning to lead: a newcleo engineer’s experience of the IAEA’s Nuclear Energy Management School

From Monday 1 May – Friday 12 May, young nuclear professionals attended the Nuclear Energy Management School in Krakow, Poland: an educational experience designed to draw out the leadership skills of talented individuals in the industry.

Focused on the managerial and technical competencies that our industry will require to support national nuclear energy strategies, the programme delivers a broad international perspective and provides access to the IAEA’s expertise on the entire nuclear energy lifecycle.

Our UK-based Licensing Engineers, George Swalwell, was among the school’s attendees. We’re pleased to share with you his account of the school, and his thoughts on how these two weeks (as well as the accompanying certificate) will impact his career as he goes forward.

Arriving late at night in Krakow on a bank holiday Monday in May, I didn’t know what to expect from the days ahead. I was excited to meet other young nuclear professionals and to take on the challenge of earning a professional nuclear qualification in a short space of time. I am pleased to share that the two weeks that followed exceeded all expectations!

Forging connections: building strong industry relationships

Within the two-weeks at the Nuclear Energy Management (NEM) school, I was able to get to know 30 participants, each bringing a wealth of insight and experience from all over the world. The NEM school also presented a unique opportunity to get to know the pioneering professionals behind the ambitious energy transition programme in Poland, who are applying advanced technologies in a new nuclear build programme to bring the country away from coal.

Learning from problem-solving minds from all over the globe was certainly eye-opening, providing us with further opportunities to sharpen our technical knowledge.

Throughout the week, I received presentations from field experts on a swathe of technical topics, spanning a wealth of material including nuclear regulation, nuclear energy policy, safety culture, nuclear fuel cycles, and further scientific applications of nuclear technology. I particularly benefitted from hearing about the personal experiences of the IAEA speakers: these are professionals who had played leading roles in establishing safety standards in US and UK nuclear projects.

Other learning opportunities offered me a chance to learn from fresh minds as well as experienced engineers. During the second week of the course, we integrated with ENYGF (European Nuclear Young Generation Forum), held at the AGH University in Krakow, to discuss ideas and experiences in the realm of nuclear construction and new builds.

Developing skills: designing the energy projects of the future

Together, we honed one of the most important skills in advanced nuclear technologies: working with others to find solutions to long-standing challenges in the industry. The ‘PowerInvest’ workshop allowed me to apply my new learnings in a practical setting – a chance to test out leadership and collaboration skills, as well as an exercise in utilising technological knowledge, as we worked in groups to define how to optimise a country’s energy mix.

Everything we learned readied us for the assessment that would allow us to ‘graduate’ from the NEM School – and I felt particularly well-prepared for this task, especially as the group project that I was assigned to was inspired by the newcleo R&D programme!

Together, in a group of seven, we conducted a feasibility study for a research and development reactor, a real-life simulation that required us to investigate what infrastructure issues needed to be addressed in the development of a country’s nuclear strategy. This complex task was a challenge, but a worthwhile one, nonetheless.

Readying the next generation: boosting the nuclear renaissance

Every attendee of the NEM school passed the programme.

This is a testament to the drive, enthusiasm, and sharpness of a new generation of young nuclear professionals. I feel empowered to be a part of such a group, and I am thankful to have had the opportunity to meet so many brilliant peers as well as to have solidified new friendships with them by exploring Krakow’s old town together.

Events like these are a crucial part of preparing to meet the challenges of nuclear’s future. There is a need for an expansion of able, committed, and talented people in the nuclear industry to meet the ambitious targets that we share. This experience invigorated my confidence in our preparation to meet our goals, bolstered by newcleo’s commitment to investing in developing the skills of young people.

It truly feels like we are in the midst of a nuclear renaissance, and it was wonderful to take this sense of passion and curiosity back to the team in London. Seeing the buzz around the industry right now, especially among the younger generation, brings me excitement for what’s next with my career at newcleo.

Read about how you can join newcleo’s team and support our mission here.

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