North American Young Generation in Nuclear Workshop, San Francisco, May 2010
In May 2010, over 300 members from different chapters of the NA-YGN attended the North American Young Generation in Nuclear Workshop. This year the workshop underlined the emissions-free credentials of nuclear generation under the theme: Leading the Change: Go Green. This is, indeed, an important aspect of nuclear technology, as the industry needs to change the way it is presented to society and should be presented as an important part of the ‘clean energy’ equation and as a solution to climate change.
The conference started with a welcome speech by the President of the NA-YGN, Mike Kurzeja. This was followed by the session entitled: Changing Leadership in the Nuclear Industry, in which Mark Fecteau, Managing Director, GG&I Strategic Project Development of Westinghouse Electric Company, and Dennis Goin, Executive Engagement Leader of Kotter International, explained how the current nuclear industry needs new leaders to drive forward change due to growth in the demand for clean energy. They also highlighted how this is already creating a challenge for future performance levels. Mark Fecteau shared his operating experience at Westinghouse with participants. He pointed out that “change is not easy” because it is often resisted and it is always difficult to measure the benefits you will obtain from it. The most important thing is to create a sense of urgency and follow specific steps to create the change, putting together a group with enough power to drive through change. Furthermore, it is important to have a communications strategy in order to continue to create success broadly. In this way you create a ‘want to’ environment not a ‘have to’ environment.
In the second session in the afternoon, Nuclear Power as a Component of a Green Energy Portfolio, the current positive situation for the nuclear industry in the US was discussed. With the support of President Obama, the US will build its first nuclear power plant for more than 20 years. This new scenario is very important in order to have transparency as a key factor behind building support for nuclear energy. It is necessary to take every opportunity to educate different stakeholders and gain their trust through transparent communications and operational excellence. In this sense, the young generation should play an important role.
During the second day of the workshop there were some parallel sessions focused on the change needed in the current nuclear industry in order to present nuclear energy as an important part of the solution to climate change. Other issues discussed were: problems with waste management, improvements that are being implemented to avoid problems in underground water contamination, and the possibility of fuel reprocessing as a solution to waste management, which is not currently allowed in the US.
The main session on the second day focused on the role played by the nuclear young generation today, the NA-YGN in this case, and their relationship with different nuclear companies. Senior Vice Presidents representing different companies, such as Progress Energy, Energy Nuclear Operation and Areva, highlighted that they are supporting the NA-YGN because it can attract new talent, help maintain existing excellence and create networking opportunities. This is really necessary in the current nuclear industry environment, especially with new nuclear power plants planned for construction by 2030. The speakers encouraged young people today to promote debates on nuclear energy with the general public, politicians and environmental organisations.
In the third and final day of the workshop parallel sessions focused on how the young generation should orient its professional career. Vice Presidents of different nuclear companies, more specifically, Westinghouse, Becthel and GE Hitachi - discussed their professional experiences. They also stressed the importance of the international mobility that young professionals should have in the industry, at a time when new plants are soon going to be built all around the world.
In conclusion, it is important to stress the main role that the current young generation should play in leading the changes necessary for the industry. We have to be prepared for the future and approach nuclear energy as an important solution to climate change.
Silvia Ortega Les,
Member of the Spanish Nuclear Young Generation (JJNN) Board