David Oakley

Engineering Support in the Waste Directorate (Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd)

"For me, the main appeal of the nucleargraduates programme was the chance to move around and try different areas of the industry before settling down to a permanent role."

Studied: MEng in Chemical Engineering (Hons) at University of Manchester

Current job title, secondment host and duration: Engineering Support in the Waste Directorate, Dounreay Site Restoration Ltd (DSRL), 5 months

Previous roles, secondment hosts and durations: Process Design Engineer at Nuvia Ltd for 7 months, Operations Support at Sellafield for 8 months.

Sponsor company: Sellafield Ltd

What is your current role and what does it involve?

My current role at Dounreay involves planning and carrying out plant upgrades and project support for one of the plants built in the 1950s to store highly active liquid wastes. This work sees me split my time between task planning at my desk and being out on plant and seeing the jobs happen – giving a good balance to my day. It is interesting and varied work as no two jobs are ever alike thanks to the age of the facilities and the way they were operated in the past. The three main tasks I am involved with see me replacing some old cooling equipment, assisting in the planning for a task to decontaminate the storage tanks and drilling holes into the containment cells to allow us to carry out radiation surveys on the tanks.

What attracted you to the nuclear sector and the nucleargraduates programme?

During my A-Level studies I developed an interest in the science behind nuclear power and when it came to applying for jobs at the end of university, the nuclear sector jumped straight out to me as a good career for a young engineer. For me, the main appeal of the nucleargraduates programme was the chance to move around and try different areas of the industry before settling down to a permanent role. University can only do so much to prepare you for working life and nucleargraduates was a great opportunity to find out what I would like to do; whether design work, working on plant or anything else I might be thrown into. The other aspects of the scheme, such as the amount and the quality of the training provided and the interesting and varied site visits, really cemented this as the graduate scheme I wanted to be a part of.

What is the standout moment from your time on the nucleargraduates programme?

There have been quite a few but I think the best was the week we spent in Sweden as part of the international Footprints (Corporate Social Responsibility) visit. This was a week in February 2015 that was organised by nucleargraduates and involved visits to Swedish nuclear sites, discussions with leading Swedish nuclear professionals, time to explore Stockholm, and an overnight train to the north of the country to spend time with the indigenous Sami people, feed reindeer and see the northern lights. An opportunity like that is unlikely to come around again anytime soon! Other great moments include a trip to the Houses of Parliament, three days doing Outward Bound training in Cumbria and visits to a wide range of nuclear sites and conferences all over the country.

What are your plans for the future?

I see myself staying in the nuclear industry long term and would like being involved in decommissioning projects or operating facilities. At the end of the nucleargraduates programme I will be returning to Sellafield’s West Cumbria site to take on a permanent role as part of the team decommissioning one of the legacy ponds. Thanks to the training and opportunities I have been given on the nucleargraduates programme I will be going straight into a role which will see me helping manage one of the most challenging and high profile projects on site. Hopefully this leads to me staying on site for a number of years, helps me to obtain chartership with the Institute of Chemical Engineers, and move further up in the organisations to positions of greater responsibility.

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