We Are the Universal Engineers

Article by Amanda Jasi

Rosey Deverall talks about her roles in nuclear safety and decommissioning

IN THIS series, we speak to chemical engineers working outside of the fossil fuel sectors to highlight the breadth of opportunities open to those just starting their careers or seeking to change sectors.

Rosey Deverall is the Decommissioning Waste Coordinator at Urenco Nuclear Stewardship, which is responsible for managing nuclear materials, decommissioning, and recycling. She has worked at Urenco and its subsidiaries since graduating from Aston University, UK, with a Bachelor’s in Chemical Engineering. Her roles have included working as a Graduate Engineer in Nuclear Safety and Quality Assurance; a Graduate Engineer in Nuclear Systems Engineering; and Waste Coordinator for Nuclear Maintenance and Operational Waste.

“The waste team I work on provides advice ahead of nuclear decommissioning projects. This includes creating project waste management plans and sampling campaign documents. We also provide ongoing support throughout the project lifetime and have management of the consignment of the produced waste. I find this rewarding due to the long-term nature of nuclear decommissioning – it makes you appreciate the small wins.

“But the most rewarding part of my role is being involved in projects from start to finish. There is a sense of achievement the team collectively gets when a project is closed out, even with small projects.”

Rosey says her work aligns with the UN Sustainability Goal to substantially reduce waste generation through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.

“We are continuously trying to reduce the waste produced on site through the waste hierarchy. This can be simple fixes, like advising project teams to unpack items before they enter controlled contamination areas, to avoid having to dispose of packaging as radioactive waste. Or it can be more complex like designing characterisation campaigns to best determine how to consign waste. Where possible we will always try to reduce the amount of waste being disposed of in landfills, and recycle materials such as metal.”

What are the main responsibilities in your current role?

“The main responsibilities in my role are the day-to-day management of the waste produced from decommissioning projects on the Urenco site in Cheshire in the UK. This involves providing advice to operational and project teams; creating and implementing technical documents regarding waste management and characterisation sampling campaigns; and producing documentation and scheduling for both radioactive and non-radioactive waste consignments.”

What skills have you developed since leaving university that you think have been key in helping you achieve your career aims?

“Since leaving university the skills I have developed the most have definitely been soft skills. Being a young female engineer in what is still a very male dominated environment presents some challenges, but my confidence in myself and my ability has grown tremendously. Working with lots of different people, from all ages and backgrounds, has meant that I have vastly improved my interpersonal skills and it has made me much more confident in managing people and being assertive when needed.”

What aspects of chemical engineering do you apply in your everyday role?

“My role requires me to have a working knowledge of nuclear physics and radiochemistry. Whilst this isn’t specifically something I learnt about during my chemical engineering degree, the fundamentals are the same as the chemical processes that I did learn about. Outside of the business-as-usual activities, I have acted as a technical specialist on the design of new processes for the treatment of uranic residues and waste which allowed me to apply my process design skills.

“Chemical engineers are often referred to as ‘universal engineers’ because of the range of technical skills and knowledge they have. This versatility adds value in the nuclear industry as it enables me to be an asset to different teams working on a variety of projects.

“Feedback I have received consistently throughout my time on my graduate scheme, and more recently in my full-time role, is that I bring creativity and versatility to whatever project I am working on. I think this was highlighted during my application process for the scheme as I was able to slot happily into leadership and team player roles and apply creative solutions to a wide range of problems.”

What chemical/process engineering skills are in demand in your sector?

“Problem solving is definitely a skill in demand in the nuclear sector and most definitely a skill chemical engineers possess. Nuclear is such a high consequence industry, often with complex problems that require engineers with excellent troubleshooting and diagnostic skills. There was a big emphasis on problem solving skills during my degree and I think a good chemical engineer will naturally have this higher cognitive ability.

“As we move closer towards a carbon free future, the need for chemical engineers and their problem-solving skills will grow. More specifically within nuclear waste, we need long-term disposal options. There are already plenty of exciting opportunities in developing new and innovative ways of managing nuclear waste, such as reprocessing and uranium recovery. As more sites are decommissioned this need will grow.”

What advice would you give to an engineer considering moving into your sector from a different sector?

“I would say to disregard any preconceptions they have about the nuclear industry. There is still a lot of stigma surrounding the work we do, and with TV shows like Chernobyl sometimes being the only exposure people have had to nuclear it can seem like a daunting industry to work in. Whereas in reality, a nuclear facility is just like any other chemical processing facility, with different materials, and from an engineering prospective a lot of the demands are the same.”

What advice would you give to a recent graduate or early careers chemical engineer who wants to work in your sector/role?

“The biggest bit of advice I would give to someone at the beginning of their career is something that covers the whole of the chemical engineering industry, and that’s to not be afraid to ask for help. It’s such a cliché statement, but when you first start out in your professional career you are so eager to impress and prove that you can do your job that you can actually be making things more difficult for yourself. I was once told by a well-respected engineer in the company that a good engineer doesn’t always know the answer, but knows the person who will.

“As a chemical engineer in a less traditional sector, often the majority of people you work with won’t be chemical engineers like yourself, and may not have had the training in qualitative and quantitative aspects of problem solving or theoretical knowledge. But as a good team player you will be able to identify and highlight everyone’s individual strengths so you can work cohesively to achieve the end goal, whatever that may be.

“Here, at Urenco, we have a team of engineers who initiated a project called U-Battery, that is hoping to play an important role in developing new technologies, such as advanced and small modular reactors, that provide a cost effective and low carbon source of power.

“A key challenge facing the nuclear sector is proving that climate change goals aren’t going to be achievable without it.”

To read more articles in this series visit https://www.thechemicalengineer.com/tags/career-paths/

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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