We chatted with new Non-Executive Director (NED), Dr Janet Wilson, about the challenges of starting a new job during lockdown, and how she’s already making a positive impact on the organisation.
Janet, what’s the structure and role of the ONR Board?
ONR is governed by a ten-strong unitary Board, made up of a Non-Executive Chair, five independent Non-Executive Directors, and four Executive Directors (Chief Executive, Chief Nuclear Inspector, HR Director and Finance Director. We come from a range of backgrounds including the nuclear industry, oil industry, the utilities sector, central government and the business world.
The Board’s role is to provide leadership, set strategy, and to monitor resources and performance, as well as ensuring good governance. All of this is really important to enable us to regulate effectively, ensuring we retain stakeholder respect, trust and confidence in what we do.
As our Chair Mark McAllister has said, the Board played a key role in developing the ONR Strategy 2020-25, which sets out how we will get from good to great. Another key area of accountability is maintaining high standards of corporate governance and probity. This means ensuring we have effective arrangements to provide assurance that ONR is providing efficient and effective regulation of the nuclear industry, holding it to account on behalf of the public.
So what do NEDs do?
Our NEDs play a vital role in challenging the direction and overall performance of the organisation. As NEDs we can look at ONR as a whole with greater independence. All six NEDs bring different skill sets and experiences, so our cognitive diversity is extremely valuable to our scrutiny and support for ONR’s direction and performance.
The Board receives regular performance reports about all areas of ONR’s operations and is responsible for collectively scrutinising these to ensure that ONR is being properly managed to deliver its strategic intent and mitigate strategic risks. We also support the organisation to shape the delivery of its strategic priorities. Most recently we considered how ONR can enable innovation within industry, and the direction of our stakeholder engagement to build more effective two-way communications over the next five years.
What’s your background and why did you apply for the job?
I’m a familiar face to some here having spent the majority of my career in the nuclear industry, including 17 years of my early career with our predecessor organisation, the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) up until 2005.
After qualifying as a chartered mechanical engineer, I started work at the Nuclear Power Company in Leicester writing safety cases, commissioning reactors and starting a PhD in my own time. I then moved to NII where I did just about every regulatory role going, and finally gained a PhD in nuclear reactor safety. I then moved to the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in a number of roles including Director of Nuclear Assurance, before moving out to the supply chain and finally to Horizon Nuclear Power as Director of Licensing and Permissions. I now run my own consultancy business utilising the expertise I’ve gained over the past 40 years in organisational development, nuclear safety, security, environment, non-proliferation and policing (armed response).
I’ve been a member of both the Civil Nuclear Police Authority and the Government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management and currently sit on the Tokamak Energy Regulatory & Safety Board.
I’ve had a great career so far in the nuclear industry, and the NED role at ONR was a perfect chance to put something back into an organisation I believe in and have some history with – on both sides of the fence.
What have been your priorities since joining the Board?
Well it has been a bit of a challenge joining an organisation during lock-down, with contact being virtual! But I’ve been made to feel very welcome by fellow Board members and staff throughout the organisation, and I am very much looking forward to meeting people face-to-face when it’s safe to do so.
A key priority has been getting to know the other NED’s and Senior Leadership Team, and understanding how we all work together to drive the organisation forward. I was lucky to join at a very exciting time, when the Strategy 2020-25 was being finalised. It’s been great to have played even a small role in shaping it and understanding our ambitions for the next five years.
What impact do you hope to have?
ONR already has a very strong leadership team and I’ll be looking to bring my experience, knowledge and expertise to strengthen us as an organisation even further over the next five years.
I’m particularly interested in supporting the growth of both nuclear security and safeguards as professions across the whole of the UK nuclear industry. Having more professionals will allow us to deliver our mission to protect society, by securing safe nuclear operations, to ensure that the UK’s safeguards obligations are met. I also think it is really important that industry, government and the public feel and consider ONR is good value for money and I’m keen to help us achieve this by enhancing our stakeholder engagement to better discuss our value and impact to the industry and public.