‘Our People’ is a regular feature, focusing on ONR’s staff and the work we do every day to help keep the nuclear industry safe and secure. It aims to bring our jobs to life while increasing understanding of our role among key stakeholders.
Today, we learn more about Helen Norris, a Regulatory Programme Manager working within ONR’s New Reactor Division.
Helen joined ONR two years ago after previous jobs in project management and management consultancy with roles with PA Consulting Group, Dyson and a large defence contractor.
After leaving school, Helen attained a physics degree from Oxford University and later joined the two-year Nuclear Graduates scheme which saw her enjoy three rewarding work placements with Rolls-Royce Submarines, BAE Systems and the Ministry of Defence.
Through working as an engineering graduate and later as a management consultant, Helen worked in the nuclear submarines sector for five years.
She joined ONR in 2021, starting off in our Sellafield, Decommissioning, Fuel and Waste (SDFW) division before moving to our New Reactors Division (NRD) in April, last year.
Helen looks after NRD’s programme management, dealing with matters of resource, finance, risk and schedule (loosely described as ‘anything that doesn’t require an inspector’s warrant!’) and manages divisional activities as well as specific and focused projects.
Currently, the bulk of her recent work has been on the Generic Design Assessment (GDA) process and the delivery of the successful completion of Step 1 for Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd’s 470 MW Small Modular Reactor (SMR) design.
Earlier this month, ONR announced that the company had met all the requirements for Step 1 from the regulators’ guidance with good progress made during the past 12 months in developing its organisation and arrangements to support the ongoing GDA.
Helen engaged regularly with the Rolls-Royce SMR Ltd delivery team on schedule, cost and contractual issues to ensure the smooth transition from Step 1 into Step 2, the technical assessment phase which is now underway.
Other elements of her role are dealing with Advanced Nuclear Technologies (ANTs) projects and programme governance, much of this linked with timely communications and working with the government’s newly-named Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.
With her project management background, Helen is often studying the resource and capacity required for ONR to deliver forthcoming projects in line with our regulatory planning assumptions for the year ahead and beyond.
Helen said: “I really enjoy working for ONR, the clear purpose of protecting society by securing safe nuclear operations makes it a rewarding place to work.
“I’m genuinely proud of what we do, I enjoy the divisional work, particularly in the New Reactors Division with the variation that the different projects bring.
“I find I’m respected for the skill set that I bring to ONR, which is important.
“One of the great things about my role is that you can get as involved as you like, if there’s a subject you particularly enjoy, you can dive right into it.
“There’s a very positive flexibility with, for example, the ANTs and GDA work, and it’s rewarding to build good relationships with different organisations.”
Outside of work, Helen likes spending time in the garden and walking her dog, but her main hobby is dinghy sailing, racing in competitions all over the country with her husband.