Page 1: Introduction
In 1954 the UK Atomic Energy Authority began work on building and running nuclear reactors and research facilities. By the 1980s the environmental problems of nuclear waste had become an issue for the UK government. The waste materials and spent fuels had to be safely dealt with. The decommissioning of early reactors became necessary requiring the safe clearance and decontamination of nuclear sites.
In 2005 the government brought this work under the control of a new organisation, the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA). NDA does not directly manage the UK's nuclear sites. It oversees the work through contracts with specially designed companies known as Site Licence Companies. NDA determines the overall strategy and priorities for managing decommissioning.
Although NDA itself only employs around 300 staff, its annual budget is £2.2 billion. The vast majority of this is spent through the contracts with the Site Licence Companies, who also sub contract to other companies which provide specialist services.
NDA's objectives are to:
- eliminate site hazards and develop waste solutions
- ensure the highest standards in safety, security and environmental management
- build an effective world-class industry
- gain full approval and support from stakeholders (employees, contractors, government, local communities and the general public)
- make best use of assets and maximise value-for-money.
Achieving NDA's goals is critically dependent on people those employed by NDA and those working for the contractors. In order to achieve its objectives NDA and the industry must recruit and retain talented staff. This is challenging due to the high retirement rate in its ageing workforce. Jobs may involve moving to remote parts of the UK. In addition to this, there is some public prejudice against nuclear power and its perceived safety which could discourage new recruits. Many people are not aware that the nuclear industry must meet the highest standards of safety for its people.
NDA holds 'Investors in People' status. This shows that the organisation works hard to meet the needs of its employees. It does this through its human resources (HR) strategy which involves:
- retaining and re-skilling staff through specialised training courses
- encouraging more GCSE science students through the Energy Foresight programme
- direct sponsorship of students at university studying relevant courses
- an industry-wide nuclear graduate scheme giving two years professional development
- linking with national initiatives such as the establishment of the National Skills Academy for Nuclear (NSAN) to co-ordinate the industry's training opportunities, National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ), apprenticeships to foundation degree level
- the promotion of postgraduate research at universities, nuclear companies and specialist centres such as the National Nuclear Laboratory.
This case study will show how developing a motivated workforce enables NDA to deliver safe and sustainable solutions to nuclear clean-up and waste management.