WM Symposia 2019 Puts Emphasis on Next Generation of RadWaste Professionals

Veolia Nuclear Solutions' younger employees reflect on challenges and opportunities at the Waste Management Symposia 2019.

Phoenix – As the leaders of the radioactive waste management industry gathered in Phoenix this week for the annual Waste Management Symposia, the conference’s theme – “Encouraging Young Men & Women to Achieve Their Goals in Radwaste Management” – struck a chord for a number of Veolia Nuclear Solutions’ younger employees.

We are currently at the edge of a major ‘changing of the guard’ as many of the current leaders in this field enter retirement. It is increasingly important that the present generation takes up the charge to move the field forward
Maegan Gilmour
Project engineer in Veolia Nuclear Solutions’ Colorado facility

Ron Mitchell, a project manager and the operation manager of the GeoMelt® Richland site, agreed, noting that the current number of professionals in the radioactive waste industry isn’t enough to handle the ever-growing workload. From management of legacy waste that already exists to the new radioactive waste being produced every day at the world’s nuclear power plants, there’s a growing demand for people to enter the industry.

Industry experts are retiring at an increasing rate, which leads to the loss of critical knowledge and capabilities,” Mitchell said. That’s why attracting young professionals into the industry has become a top priority, and well-qualified young professionals should be positioning themselves for these opportunities.
Ron Mitchell
Project manager and Operation manager of the GeoMelt® Richland site

The nuclear industry  provides a unique opportunity for younger employees: not only can young professionals carve out a successful career, but they can also tackle some of the world’s most significant environmental challenges. Pamela Cook, a transportation specialist, said these characteristics are attractive to a younger generation that is defined by an environmental consciousness.

The main thing that motivates me in doing this job is knowing that every shipment of waste shipped decreases contamination risk and potential health risk to the public and the environment
Pamela Cook
Transportation specialist

Gilmour, who designs robotic systems and tools for hazardous environments, offered a similar assessment. The nuclear industry  is one of the few fields that calls for ongoing, novel design work, and Veolia Nuclear Solutions’ best-in-class capabilities and ability to provide unique, tailored solutions for clients allows her to fulfill her goal of working as a mechanical engineer and solving new challenges every day.

The youth movement in radioactive waste management is likely to help reshape the way nuclear waste and other environmental issues are handled. Mitchell said that younger employees may challenge the status quo of legacy methods and concepts, and by working with older employees can help bring positive change to the industry.

“Through collaboration, the loss of critical knowledge and skills can be prevented while providing the opportunity to exercise new strategies to solve the challenges facing the nuclear industry,” he said.

Gilmour concurred, suggesting that as more professionals from the millennial generation join the industry’s ranks, they can bring new ideas to the table for how we handle the industries need for hazardous waste management.

“I think we will start to see a lot more technology adopted, and a lot more of the status quo being re-evaluated for opportunities for improvement,” Gilmour said.

"It’s nice to not only be doing something I love, but also knowing that what I’m doing is helping to keep people safe"  explained Gilmour