National Nuclear Laboratory


Tuesday 23 November 2021

A graduate insight into NNL’s technical induction

By Euan Allatt, Graduate Chemist at NNL

I had the opportunity to attend NNL’s technical induction for the new starters on this year’s graduate and post-doctoral schemes. This was the first event for the new cohort of post-doctoral researchers and graduates held since the pandemic began in March 2020, and we had lots to discuss!

As COP26 descended on Glasgow, we descended on Manchester for two days packed with presentations, workshops, and a dinner with NNL’s Executive Leadership Team. We covered the nuclear fuel cycle from its inception in the 1950s to the Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) and Gen IV reactors that will power us through to the end of this century, focusing on NNL’s critical place in the past and future as the UK’s go-to for nuclear expertise.

Talks looked at the cutting-edge research taking place in all of NNL’s six UK sites, from post-irradiation examination of graphite at the Windscale Laboratory in support of the UK’s fleet of advanced gas-cooled reactors, to the development of new materials for nuclear reactors at the Preston Laboratory as part of the government-funded Advanced Fuel Cycle Programme (AFCP). The talks showcased the huge amount of diverse technical talent at NNL, from modelling atomistic chemistry up to design engineering at full plant scale.

What pervaded every discussion was the role of nuclear in achieving net zero. NNL is wide awake to the climate crisis and is exceptionally well-placed to deliver both urgent action today and advanced nuclear solutions in the long-term, as the UK increases its electricity and hydrogen consumption. Recent gas price increases and low wind speeds have only accelerated the need for new nuclear technologies which NNL is helping to deliver. It’s difficult to convey how good it feels to be a part of the climate change solution, working on projects that make a quantifiable difference to achieving net zero.

It was fantastic to sit down and have dinner with members of the Executive Leadership Team, having great conversations with them about their careers and our future aspirations. This visibility of senior leadership is something you’d expect from a company with tens of employees, not over a thousand. We were able to ask them difficult questions about gender, racial and class diversity in the organisation and the wider industry.

A clear drive and desire to make improvements to diversity within NNL beyond the usual frameworks and protocols that companies have was demonstrated. For example, with school outreach programmes aimed at demographics who are underrepresented in the sector. Diversity makes companies safe, happy and productive – there’s never been a more exciting time to join NNL and the industry regardless of background.

The NNL technical induction made me feel like part of a community of early careers professionals, full of intelligent people from different academic backgrounds. If you’re interested in constantly enriching your science and engineering knowledge, both in and out of your discipline, NNL is the place to be. Our graduate scientific engineering scheme closes on Tuesday, 30th November 2021 and NNL’s re-designed early careers page has lots of information and details how to apply: