Viewing Nuclear from the North

If you want to get a real view of the nuclear industry, heading north can offer a great panorama. Last month I travelled to Ontario to attend Foratom’s international conference on Quality, Leadership, and Management, and I was able to see some amazing things.

Now, I am not a traveler. I take a few domestic flights a year, but have only left the USA once and have never been to Europe, South America, or Mexico. Despite 5 years of French in school, and a few adult courses in Spanish, I somehow managed to forget everything and settle for just English. Travelling to Ontario I was nervous and unsure how to survive in another country without looking stupid, and going on the heels of trade tensions between the US and Canada wasn’t helping my case.  But, I had the promise of a great conference to experience so I packed my neckties and trudged through the North Carolina humidity to fly out.

I landed in Canada with the common American perspective of nuclear generation: a great operating fleet of reactors and world-renowned regulatory body and safety record, but struggling open markets and very few promises of new nuclear construction. I was ready to talk shop on our Delivering the Nuclear Promise objectives and NAYGN’s arsenal of outreach and development weapons for defending our great industry. Little did I know there’s a lot more to our industry once you gain the right perspective.

Lee Causey, Adrienne Kelbie, Fred Dermarkar, and Andrei Goicea, panelists on the Knowledge Transfer workshop during the 2018 Foratom QLM conference

Hopeful of a Small Modular Reactor being built? Argentina’s CAREM 25 site is already 50% complete and schedule to be wrapped up in 2021. Chalk River Labs in Canada is lined up to have an SMR on site by 2026. Canada has a regulatory body very open to new technologies and will almost certainly lead North America’s SMR efforts. These are things some of our US vendors may already know, but as a utility guy in the US I hadn’t been exposed to these great success stories for nuclear.

Wondering when we’re going to start building new, larger reactors? It’s already happening in India, China, UAE, Turkey, Belarus, Pakistan, Slovakia, Japan, and others. These are covering a wide array of designs, including those from Rosatom, KEPCO, OKB Gidropress, CANDU, Framatome, Westinghouse, and more. This is one of my greatest takeaways from Canada: The nuclear industry is both growing and thriving. If you were ever worried about an uncertain nuclear future, I can tell you nuclear is here to stay and there is a lot of great work for young members in the industry to look forward to.

The international perspective of nuclear was energizing. In the opening sessions I heard speakers from Canada, France, Argentina, and the UK. Here was a collection of people that were looking at the nuclear industry as an industry in motion, focusing on improved project management tools, supply chain streamlines, regulatory engagement… it was thrilling.

I also had the opportunity to speak on a panel discussing knowledge transfer and retention, a subject very near and dear to my heart. The session was geared to a young audience, and offered a great chance to showcase some of NAYGN’s KT&R efforts and our Career Report data. At least half of the audience was from countries outside of North America, and I left with an impression that all young members in our industry, regardless of company or country, are struggling with similar issues as they move deeper into a technical and regulated environment. There is a constant desire for guidance on interacting with managers, managing rotational programs, receiving mentoring, and ultimately planning your career.

Over the four days of workshops, I met some fantastic young members of the industry, a number of NAYGN’s prominent members in our Canada region, and a talented class of students about to enter our workforce. All in all, I left Canada excited about our industry’s presence and appreciative of the great role NAYGN has offered our chapters in North America. We have a very bright future – let’s get out there and meet it!

-Lee Causey, PE
NAYGN Vice President