Welcome to a new regular feature, focusing on our staff and the work we do every day to help keep the nuclear industry safe and secure. ‘Our People’ aims to bring our jobs to life while increasing understanding of our role among key stakeholders.
Today, we learn more about Zoe Wu, and her work as a Nuclear Internal Hazards and Site Safety Inspector, within the Technical Division at the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR).
The 37-year-old joined ONR in June 2019 after working as a quality, environment, health and safety professional across many different sectors, the latest being in education and training.
Almost three years ago, Zoe started her journey with ONR as a nuclear associate in conventional health and safety which later merged into the Nuclear Internal Hazards and Site Safety specialism.
She progressed to inspector level and her current role sees her regulating the health, safety and well-being of people working on Britain’s nuclear sites.
Recently, she was at Hunterston B in Scotland as the station prepared for its end of generation switch-off, with close attention paid by Zoe and her colleagues to arrangements for managing asbestos and construction activities.
Asbestos can be found in any building built before the year 2000 and is estimated to be responsible for about 5,000 deaths every year from historic exposures.
So, this is a natural spotlight for ONR inspectors when a plant enters a new phase of defuelling and decommissioning.
With the change of conditions from warm and hot, to cold and damp when a power station shuts down, asbestos management is a crucial topic for Zoe and co-workers as they assess how risks are being controlled.
Other recent activities saw Zoe at EDF’s Hartlepool power station during an outage when maintenance activities increase on site, and with that comes heightened attention on strong health and safety protocols.
Working closely with site inspectors, visits from Zoe and Technical Division colleagues can last for up to three days where an initial site ‘walk down’ helps to understand the site layout as particular safety topics are analysed.
Areas often under consideration include construction, working at height, lifting, confined space working, workplace transport, and control of substances hazardous to health, to name just a few.
During the last 12 months, Zoe has been tasked to work within the fields of Decommissioning Fuel and Waste (DFW), Propulsion and Operating Facilities Division.
Along with the usual writing up of intervention records, assessment reports and notes, enforcement action can be more common within Zoe’s specialism as there is more likelihood for incidents to occur in the field of conventional health and safety than a solely nuclear safety related incident.
Zoe said: “Within this job, I really enjoy the broad range of challenges, and ultimately protecting and helping people.
“People are the most valuable thing that we have in any organisation.
“It’s stimulating work to have conversations on site when initially things aren’t going well, but then through good interactions from all sides, dutyholders see the need to improve and show passion to get that done.
“I enjoy working for ONR and its diversity, and people from different backgrounds, there’s a broad spectrum of interesting people here that makes any working day an intriguing one.”
Zoe, who in her spare time enjoys travelling, hiking, and snowboarding, views the years ahead of EDF transforming their sites from operating facilities to defuelling and decommissioning operations as a key highlight.
She added: “On those sites, the risk profile is going to shift towards more conventional health and safety related, with increased construction activities, new buildings to be built, structures to be taken apart, ageing assets to be monitored and maintained, services to be isolated, site footprints to be changed – these all require a different focus to before when the stations were generating.
“More people will be on sites doing different types of work than they had done previously, so it’s new challenges for the dutyholders, and for us, too.”