You’d think someone with a Japanese degree and friends who ran for their lives from Fukushima would have been automatically put off nuclear energy. Instead I was put off the media sensationalism I witnessed, and spent most of Friday 11th March 2011 searching for credible news sources. I found the World Nuclear News, posted their articles to my Facebook and quoted their statistics in an attempt to calm the panic I could see. This was my introduction to radiation. That week I moved from complete cluelessness about nuclear to climbing on the fence.
You’d think that someone who had worked in investment banks would have had enough of controversial industries. I should really have been looking for work in the Small Fluffy Animals Association. Instead, when I heard a vacancy had come up for maternity cover at the World Nuclear Association I asked my agency to put me forward for it. They explained that they had already sent off a shortlist of CVs and the WNA might already have made a decision, but they would send mine late anyway just in case. After a couple of interviews and a meet-and-greet with my future boss I started work at WNA, just in time for my first ever Christmas with paid holiday.
You’d think, noting the diversity of my LinkedIn, that I would have left after the seven-month maternity cover ended, satisfied with having learnt about a new sector, added some new skills to my CV and bumped my job title up to Executive Assistant. Instead I was fascinated by this company, this industry and the role I could potentially build within it. When my boss Agneta Rising offered me a permanent position I was pleased to accept.
The people at WNA are more passionate about their work than I have usually seen in commercial organisations. The ticking clock of climate change, the uneven playing field for developing countries, the health-ruining impact of the very media sensationalism that so appalled me 19 months before I had even heard of the World Nuclear Association – motivations like these add a layer of sincerity and urgency to the work my colleagues do, the sense that we really are working for humanity whether humanity appreciates it or not.
One result of this passion – sometimes filtered through layers of knowledge and academia until it is more suitably described as dedication – is a willingness to teach. I’ve learned more about physics by the bar at the work Christmas party than I ever did at school, and more facts, perspective and context about Fukushima by chatting to a journalist co-worker after hours than I ever learned from the numerous newspaper articles I have by now read on the subject. And every time this happens I think, “If only there were some way to share what I’m learning with my friends and family…”
So here we are. With this blog and my Twitter feed I want to give a glimpse into the nuclear layperson’s perspective, beyond the jargon and the numbers. This industry is a lot more relevant and a lot more human than I think many people realise. I’d like to show you what I see.
DISCLAIMER: I obviously can’t do this without the patient explanations of my vastly more knowledgeable co-workers, but I write this as an independent and fallible individual, not as a representative of my company. I’m pretty sure you need higher than a C in GCSE Physics to be a nuclear spokesperson.