Office for Nuclear Regulation

ONR inspectors secure laureate slots for cross-Channel mentor scheme

24 March, 2022

Three inspectors from The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) have been selected for the coveted UK-France Women In Nuclear programme to help further bolster diversity and knowledge-sharing within the industry.

Denise Varley, Laura Dixon and Kate Hughes-Gill were chosen by government’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to take part in the cross-Channel mentoring initiative.

Denise, with about 30 years working within the sector, secured a role as a mentor to French applicants who will benefit from her expertise at ONR and previous roles.

And Laura and Kate successfully applied to become mentees within the scheme which brings together early-to mid-career women in the British and French nuclear sectors.

In total, there were just eight laureates successfully placed from the UK following a call for applications from BEIS and the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.

As part of the project, the ONR employees will soon take part in a launch event before two later visits in 2022 to France, one at a nuclear site and the other in Paris.

The same process will be followed for successful French applicants who will come to the UK for the same purpose.

UK-France Women In Nuclear aims to develop capability, share knowledge, expand international networks and continue the ongoing drive for more diversity within the nuclear industry.

Laura and Kate will get the opportunity to learn from some of the most senior women in the French nuclear industries while Denise will pass on similar knowledge to French applicants when they come to Britain.

John Bilton, Senior International Policy Adviser, Nuclear Directorate, at BEIS, said: “We’re delighted to have two colleagues from the ONR join this year’s cohort of laureates, and for Denise Varley to join us as a mentor.

“We received several very strong laureate applications from ONR and choosing just two was a huge stretch.

“We’re very excited for the insight and experience that they will bring to the programme.”

Laura Dixon, who works as an ONR nuclear safety inspector, within nuclear liabilities regulation, said: “I’m very pleased to be offered a place on the UK-France Women in Nuclear programme as a laureate.

“It will give me the opportunity to meet new people and learn from them in a way that we perhaps can’t as ONR nuclear safety inspectors in our day jobs.

“My work is in radioactive waste management and spent fuel, in which we have regular engagements in international settings, so I hope the programme will allow me to gain both technical and personal experiences.”

Kate Hughes-Gill, a nuclear safety inspector, within ONR’s Operating Facilities and Transport divisions, said: “I’m very honoured to be accepted as a laureate.

“I think that within the UK’s nuclear sector, there is seldom opportunity to learn from senior females, let alone those with a different perspective and who have exposure to the sheer scale of the nuclear industry that there is in France.

“Being part of the scheme will give me potential opportunities for exposure to individuals operating within the environment of both modern pressurised water reactors and fusion reactors.

“This is experience that I could not otherwise obtain within the UK.

“A key benefit of this opportunity to me is that my mentor will be totally independent from the environment in which I regulate, so I could receive truly impartial advice and guidance.”

Denise Varley, a principal inspector in nuclear liabilities regulation, within ONR’s New Reactors division, said: “I am delighted to be selected as a mentor for the scheme.

“I started my career over 30 years ago, during which I have managed, coached and mentored less experienced colleagues.

“ONR has given me wonderful international opportunities, including membership of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Waste Safety Standards Committee, as an expert in an Integrated Regulatory Review Service (IRRS) mission in Germany and a technical mission to China, working with colleagues from many countries.

“I am looking forward to mentoring a French colleague to share my experiences as a woman in an international industry and to encourage her to develop to achieve her full potential.”