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Nuclear Institute Central England Branch Young Generation Network Speaking Competition

Photo CEB Speaking Comp

Pictured (l to r): Simon Lemin, Rebecca Wong, Elizabeth Watson, Mehdi Askarieh (Chair, Central England Branch), Robert Sigrist, and Matt French.

Five candidates were selected for this Central England Regional Final.  The key theme of the event was to demonstrate communication skills before a live audience, with emphasis on presentation rather than overall content.

Marks were awarded for four aspects:  Synopsis; Oral Presentation; Clarity and Use of Visual Aids; and, Ability to Explain to a Non-technical Audience.  The judges decided that aspects two and three were the most important in the context of the key theme and weighted the marking accordingly (5, 10, 10, 5) giving a maximum possible score of 30.  The target presentation time was 10 minutes.

Informal personal feedback was provided to each candidate, in private conversations with the judges, during the social period after the presentations.  First, second and third places were awarded.  The judges have provided observations in this report, for all the candidates.

Congratulations are offered to all the candidates for reaching this regional final stage.  All the presentations were very interesting and informative and, noting the importance of effective communications, the candidates are strongly encouraged to keep up the good work!


1stSimon Lemin, TUV SUD Nuclear Technologies

Assurance: Making Mountains out of Molehills

Presentation:  A nuclear safety case is often considered to be the reason that a project's costs spiral out of control, or the reason that a project is delayed. There is often a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the safety case and with the underlying principle of 'as low as reasonably practicable' (ALARP).  Engineers and Project Managers are quick to pass the blame to Assurance teams for not allowing cheap or simple solutions and there is often an assumption that the Assurance team is trying to reduce the risk unreasonably and adding unnecessary complexity because of imaginary or implausible fault scenarios.  This presentation attempts to explain the role of assurance, the principle of ALARP and why assurance teams aren't (always) the bad guys.

Observations by the judges:  Simon presented a good synopsis - clearly stating the issue, its background and the relevance of his presentation in addressing the issue. Overall presentation timing was good.  Simon showed excellent audience rapport, speaking in a clear and bold voice, making good eye contact, injecting humour and holding the interest of his audience.  Slides and explanations were clear.

2nd:  Rebecca Wong, Amec Foster Wheeler

Tritium: A Challenge For JET

Presentation:  The radionuclide tritium will play an increasingly vital role in the world’s energy production for the future. Just a few grams of tritium and deuterium (both isotopes of hydrogen) are required to fuel fusion reactors at any one time, with the reaction being 4 million times more energetic than that from the burning of a fossil fuel.

Creating the conditions for fusion and harnessing the energy output on a commercial scale is beyond the limits of current technology, but experimental research is ongoing at the Joint European Torus (JET). Here they have found tritium containment to be a challenge, as it permeates many materials and adsorbs onto most metals. The loss of tritium in this way gives rise to contamination hazards and as a weak beta emitter it is difficult to detect. Another consequence is that less material is able to be fed back into the torus as fuel, which is a critical issue as tritium only exists in tiny quantities. It continually decays into helium-3 and the natural production rate is less than half a kilogram per year.  To deal with these matters the engineers at JET have designed a number of systems, including the Advanced Gas Handling Facility.

Observations by the judges:  Rebecca's synopsis was good, having a well explained context. Timing was good and the presentation was well structured.  Slides were well designed and well explained.

3rd:  Elizabeth Watson, AWE

Brief Overview of the Sellafield Resilience Programme

Presentation:  In 2011, in response to regulatory requirements, Sellafield embarked upon a review of the site’s resilience to large scale, prolonged events, of the type witnessed at Fukushima. The Sellafield Resilience Programme required the development of a new assessment methodology in order to provide a structured and consistent review of the facilities on site.

An overview of the Sellafield Resilience Programme during the period of Elizabeth's personal involvement, from 2011 to 2013, is provided.  It covers the background as to why the review of site resilience was required, the development of the assessment methodology, including identifying the plants to be assessed and the scenarios to be assessed against, and discusses some of the findings that have resulted from the implementation of this work.

Observations by the judges:  Elizabeth presented a very good synopsis, clearly stating the issue and outlining exactly what her presentation would cover in the context of the issue. Her presentation was clear and progressed in a logical and easy to follow manner.  Although some slides were rather busy they were supported by good verbal explanations.

Matthew French, Amec Foster Wheeler

Hydrothermal synthesis of nuclear waste storage materials

Presentation:  Vitrification is the current method of choice for the immobilisation of high level radioactive waste produced from the reprocessing of spent fuel. Vitrification produces a monolithic, glass waste form encapsulating the radionuclides; however, glass waste forms have been found to suffer from radiation damage leading to micro-cracking, thus reducing the integrity of the waste form.

Crystalline ceramics offer a promising alternative to glass, often with considerable improvements in waste loading, radiation resistance and radionuclide distribution. Ceramic waste forms are based on natural, radionuclide-containing minerals that have been found to demonstrate excellent durability over timescales exceeding those required of a geological disposal facility.

Ceramics are traditionally prepared using solid-state synthesis at temperatures above 1000°C, but this is an expensive process often leading to impure products. Hydrothermal synthesis offers an alternative, low temperature method which is highly tuneable. Hydrothermal reaction vessels operate at temperatures lower than 250°C but can create pressures in excess of 1000psi.

This presentation describes how hydrothermal synthesis was utilised to prepare ceramic waste forms doped with radionuclide analogues and neutron absorbers. The potential waste forms were characterised using techniques such as XRD, SEM-EDS and ICP-OES. The waste forms were tested for thermal stability using variable temperature XRD and chemical durability by undertaking leach tests.

Observations by the judges:  Matthew provided a good synopsis that was well explained.  The presentation had a good logical structure.  Some slides were rather busy but, overall, Matthew gave a solid account of a complex technical subject.

Robert Sigrist, Amec Foster Wheeler

An Overview of Early Reactor Research at Harwell

PresentationOver its lifetime as an experimental nuclear site a total of 14 reactors were built at Harwell ranging from “zero energy toroidals” a few meters across, to “piles” the size of a house. The first of these built was GLEEP (Graphite Low Energy Experimental Pile) the first reactor in Western Europe. Construction started almost immediately after Harwell was transferred to a nuclear research site and was operational for 43 years until it was finally shutdown in 1990. Throughout its long lifetime GLEEP provided extensive data that would be integrated into later reactor designs.

BEPO (British Experimental Pile 0) was built in 1948 following the experience that had been gained from GLEEP. BEPO was a prototype of the design that would later be used in the Windscale reactor and one of its early achievements was the heating of surrounding hangers by making use of an early heat exchanger.

Much of Britain’s early fusion research was also located at Harwell with the ZETA (Zero Energy Toroidal Assembly) tokamak starting operations in 1957. Although its operational life would be overshadowed by a false announcement of reaching true fusion it eventually proved instrumental in the development of diagnostic tools to observe future fusion plasmas.

Observations by the judges:  Robert provided a very interesting and well summarised history of the early reactor work at Harwell.  This was achieved through Robert's direct personal interest in the subject rather than being part of the day job.  Timing was good and explanations were appropriately non-technical.