News & Insights


YGN Futuresight - Community

It is the YGN's role, as part of the professional body for the nuclear sector, to look ahead, to envisage a better world and a future in which our members and our industry will flourish.

Times of great societal pressure and motivational shifts such as this create innovation and will inevitably result in a change in behaviours and attitudes towards the vocational aspects of our lives. This is our opportunity to rethink work and the workplace - what does our future workforce value and what skills are required for the future of work?

In previous YGN Futuresight articles we have explored how our current circumstances prompt us to reconsider our Values, how Leadership is required to ensure we thrive beyond the crisis, reflecting on Self and the importance of Energy during the pandemic. This week, Saralyn Thomas, YGN Marketing and Communications Lead, offers her insights into how the pandemic is bringing a number of different communities together on both the micro- and macro-level.


What is a community? A quick search online gives me a few definitions for the word “community”. According to the Oxford Dictionary, a community is:

“A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.”

A sense of community has become incredibly important during this pandemic as we need to work together to beat the virus, whether it’s aiding shielding neighbours by helping out with chores or working on the frontline. In this article, I hope to explore the different types of communities we’re all a part of and how the pandemic has united us.

“A group of people living in the same place …”

Looking at the definition of community on the most basic level, we have seen many examples of strengthening bonds locally. The pandemic has seen communities coming together across the UK. For instance, COVID Mutual Aid Groups have been popping up with thousands of groups now across the UK. These are set up by volunteers to support the local community throughout the COVID-19 outbreak. You can find more information about your local group here.

Arguably the most notable example of communities coming together is the Thursday 8pm clap for keyworkers. The NHS was founded in 1948 and has served the nation time after time. We have united as a country to show our appreciation to the NHS amid the pandemic with neighbours coming out weekly to clap, along with their children sometimes with pots and pans in tow. Having moved to a new neighbourhood in February, this is the first time I’ve really gotten to know my neighbours, my local community.

Speaking of the NHS, communities have really pulled together to help. The NHS goodSAM volunteer scheme was created following lockdown and saw an extraordinary response with 750,000 volunteers signing up. 65,000 former nurses and doctors have returned to the NHS to fight the virus while a staggering £33 million has been raised for the NHS by Captain Tom Moore.

Community spirit is indeed stronger than ever.

A group of people…having a particular characteristic in common

Let’s rewind to the start of 2020 and focus on community at the macro level…PPE, Emergency planning and response, distance, isolation, containment – these are all terms that some of us in the nuclear industry use daily. The nuclear industry is uniquely placed to react during the pandemic; we have been able to support our communities with several companies leading the way internally and working with the supply chain to donate PPE, manufacture face shields, fundraise for hospitals and donate time to contact those in need.

As a member of the nuclear community, it’s been incredibly heart-warming and inspiring to see several companies step up. As an industry made up of significant government owned organisations, we are well placed to ensure that communities in nuclear places recover in a way that creates “green collar” employment, regional prosperity and clear growth. In researching for this article, I’ve come across numerous examples of companies helping their local communities. Here are a series of articles showcasing COVID-19 community responses of many companies in our industry: AWEBAE SystemsDounreayJacobsMagnoxMinistry of DefenceNational Nuclear LaboratoryNuclear AMRCSellafieldWestinghouseUKAEA.

If you’re reading this and we haven’t mentioned your company’s community response activities, then please tell us about it in the comments so we can update this article and further share the great work being done in our nuclear community. You can also stay abreast of how the UK nuclear industry is responding at the NIA website.

The YGN, as part of the Nuclear Institute, the learned society for the nuclear sector, would like to thank our sector for this tremendous response in supporting our communities and country. Let’s not forget that all this is being done while nuclear is keeping the lights on, remaining a stable and reliable source of energy – something that has become incredibly important in allowing us to communicate and strengthen our bonds as a community. As we social distance, the internet has become an essential tool for us to stay connected, and a stable energy supply is just as essential in maintaining this connection.

Nuclear energy currently supplies approximately 21% of the UK’s electricity, and with the determination, innovation and collaboration of our workforce (and very importantly, backing from Government on new nuclear build), we should see this rise. It is a very exciting time for the UK nuclear community – the fight against climate change is getting higher and higher on the political agenda and the next UN Climate Change Summit, COP 26, will be hosted by the UK. We as an industry have the opportunity to help people #RediscoverNuclear, highlighting nuclear energy as a low-carbon energy source which will be integral to meeting the UK’s net-zero goals. A key part of doing this is showing the passion of our nuclear workforce in meeting these goals.

This is exemplified by the YGN’s new social media campaign called “YGN Community”, the aim of which is to hear more from our members, volunteers and wider young nuclear workforce, showcasing what a brilliant community we have. Our first campaign focuses on asking our community why they joined the nuclear industry. Most responses are related to an ambition to combat climate change. Going back to that definition of community, we are a group of people with a particular characteristic in common: we want to make the world a better place. We need to spread more of these messages beyond our own nuclear community, engaging other communities with the same ambitions, whether it be through the use of nuclear energy, renewables, planting more trees, eating less meat, etc.

If you’d like to get involved in our YGN Community campaign, then please email

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“A group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common”

Something that every single person has in common – we all live on the same planet. As of 20th May, there were 4,761,559 confirmed cases of COVID-19, affecting 216 countries/areas/territories. I have never in my lifetime seen anything that has affected the planet on such a scale. The definition above suggests we are all part of a community – a global community. All countries have gone through times of turmoil with history suggesting these times have brought countries together. This pandemic might have a similar impact in bringing us together as a global community.

I saw signs of this myself recently when attending the International Youth Nuclear Congress (IYNC) 2020 in Sydney pre-lockdown, a conference where everyone was bonded by their belief in nuclear energy and its wider uses. Attendees had another thing in common: growing concerns over COVID-19. There were over 300 attendees at the conference – a fantastic turn out – but there were many more unable to attend due to travel restrictions. The IYNC and Australian YGN did a fantastic job in ensuring this had a minimal effect on the conference, with the use of videoconferencing tools for speakers, where possible. As we said our goodbyes on the last day, we also gave our well wishes for travelling back home safe, encouraging people to check in when they got home. I was even added to a whatsapp group of attendees where to this day, delegates are still reaching out to the group to find out how everyone is getting on in their different countries. This was my first international conference and I’ve made much stronger links here than any other conference I’ve previously attended – I’d like to think the pandemic actually brought everyone together and will become something we bond over as we meet each other again in the future.

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Another international meeting of communities will be COP 26, hosted by the UK in Glasgow. Originally to be held in November, it has now been postponed to 2021 due to COVID-19. The Summit will bring together over 30,000 delegates including heads of state, climate experts and campaigners to agree a coordinated action to tackle climate change. This will be an international community of people bonded by their ambitions to secure a sustainable future for the planet, and the nuclear community is just one part of that. The YGN are incredibly excited to be representing the European Nuclear Society at the Summit, with the aim of making nuclear energy a talking point and have it accepted as part of a low-carbon energy mix. Keep a look out on social media for more information on this as we progress our plans.

Communities and the future

If there is one positive that we can draw from the COVID crisis, it is that is has brought previously dispersed communities together. The question is whether these bonds will remain in place if and when we return to our busy lives. I’d like to think communities will be ever grateful for the support they received during this time and you’ll continue to speak to those neighbours you’ve connected with, even if it is just a friendly wave on your way to work in the morning.

Companies and industries however, must take some lessons from this time to help them evolve. My thoughts on what learning we could take and how the future of the industry could pan out are:

  • A rise in public awareness of the benefits of nuclear energy – The nuclear industry has been tremendous in its support to communities. Might people with a lack of awareness of the industry now show more interest, learn more about the importance of nuclear energy in powering the nation and show some support? Could this be a way of bursting the nuclear bubble? Read more about this in our article on “Energy”.
  • Increased focus on Total Societal Impact – Several companies in the industry are leading the way on creating and implementing strategies related to the economic, social and environmental impact of their work. It is these companies that will be remembered post-COVID by their communities. This goes hand in hand with the above point – other companies may also consider their own strategies further, benefitting more people across the UK, and working towards raising awareness of the good work of the nuclear industry nationally.
  • COVID-19 will help shine a light on nuclear – I think this might be the result of timing. COVID-19 has shown the importance of a reliable energy supply to keep communities connected. If this pandemic had happened at any other time in the last decade, then people may not have taken notice of nuclear energy. With an increased focus on tackling climate change, the UK having pledged Net-Zero and COP 26 being hosted in the UK, will the spotlight shine on nuclear? Yes, there are many other low-carbon forms of energy, but are any of them as reliable as nuclear?
  • The world will take notice – COVID-19 has affected us globally; everyone will have grasped the importance of a reliable energy source. COP 26 will gather world leaders to the UK, a country which is leading the way in fulfilling the Paris Agreement by introducing its net-zero goals. If the UK truly does grasp nuclear energy in a post-COVID world, will other world leaders follow suit? The pandemic has taught us that we need to work together – in the same way that we’re all in this fight to beat COVID-19, we are all in the same fight to beat climate change.
  • Change will be driven by young professionals in our community – As noted in the YGN Futuresight article on “Leadership”, young people will not accept inaction on the problems of tomorrow – they will want to work for those companies with a strong sense of Total Societal Impact and support initiatives working to battle climate change. It is our generation and future generations which will be greatly impacted by climate change and we will take this into our own hands. We will need to work together with older generations who have years of experience behind them but we’ll see a rise in initiatives such as shadow boards and young generation representatives to ensure our voices are heard and we can shape strategies which help ensure our low-carbon future.

In an ideal world, these are the lessons that I would like for our industry to take from the pandemic. Obviously, this is a very idealistic view of the future and there are many more challenges to overcome before we can see these changes. The majority of our nuclear fleet will retire within the next decade with nuclear new build projects being imperative to providing adequate supply of nuclear energy in a low-carbon environment, while a location for the UK’s Geological Disposal Facility, a permanent home for our nuclear waste, has not been identified yet. There’s also the economics of nuclear power to be considered. However, by working together as communities with a shared interest to achieve net-zero, therein becoming part of the clean energy community working with other sectors for innovative solutions, we can find solutions to these challenges bit by bit and these idealistic thoughts could one day become a reality. If we can unite as a community to beat the virus, then surely we can unite to beat climate change and secure our future on Earth?

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