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Meet our team: Heather Hale

Posted March 06, 2023

As Head of Engineering, Heather leads a team of more than 200 engineers for Nuclear Services at EDF. She’s been with EDF (then British Energy) since 2002 and within Nuclear Services’ technical functions since 2018. “I’m the sort of person who thrives off having something new to learn and get challenged by each week,” she says. And that’s certainly the case in Nuclear Services.

Read time: 5 mins


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What’s been your journey to Nuclear Services?

After graduating from university, I saw an advert come up for the graduate scheme for Nuclear Operations, including a final role at Dungeness B power station. I was really excited about the prospect of working at a nuclear power station and doing a role that was actively helping to decarbonise the UK’s power supply and keep the lights on.

I learnt a huge amount during the 10 years I worked at Dungeness B before going to work on new nuclear build projects for EDF, as their radiation protection lead.

Shortly after this, I moved to Paris where I worked with the engineering designers at EDF Group. It was really fun: I improved my French and learned more about the wider context of Group. It was also hugely important in developing my expertise in building teams with people from different cultural backgrounds, all working together to solve design problems.

We’re creating the cornerstone of technical resources to support the nuclear industry in the future.

Heather Hale, Head of Engineering

What’s your role now?

When I returned to the UK, it was to lead and develop a team of civil engineers for Hinkley Point C. The team was based in Bristol so I moved to the South West. As the role developed, I moved from managing not just civil engineers, but engineers from all engineering disciplines on and off site.

More recently, as the Sizewell C project has progressed and we’ve joined up our support to our existing nuclear power stations with our new build projects, the Nuclear Services organisation has grown and developed.

The function I lead now looks after the Engineering support to all three ‘clients’: Nuclear Operations (our existing plants, both those generating power and those in defueling) and the Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C projects. We have a long future ahead of us with all three clients, as workloads on the individual projects and plants change. Through Nuclear Services, we have secured an enduring organisation and teams who can nurture people and give individuals variety in their careers.

What does your team do?

A. We’re the back-office people: our work takes place behind the scenes, but makes it possible for the project to get built, whether it’s assessment calculations or supporting the design of the reactor and its support systems. 

Sometimes one of my engineering team will return from a visit on site and it’s like they’ve been on holiday, they’re so keen to show me photos of a piece of equipment they designed on paper! They’re proud to see it finally become real – and that’s really satisfying.

I’m also really enjoying the opportunity to do something more strategic and longer term. What we’re doing at Hinkley Point C with our technical team is creating the cornerstone of technical resource to support the nuclear industry in the future. It’s very exciting – so long as you like working with longer timeframes!

My team and I have been involved in doing things that have never happened in the UK before – maybe even the world.

Heather Hale, Head of Engineering

What attracted you to work at Hinkley Point C?

A. I come from an operating background; so initially, it was the chance to work on a new build and get things right from the beginning. To be part of a new and exciting project, and set things up differently. But what’s kept me here since is the challenge of the day-to-day work.

I’m the sort of person who thrives off having something new to get my head around each week. I couldn’t cope with doing the same job day in, day out. My team and I have also been involved in doing things that have never happened in the UK before – maybe, even, the world! That’s really exciting. And to see the team’s enthusiasm and passion, despite it being really hard work, is really motivating.

How does your operational experience help with working in new nuclear?

A. I know what the reality is like of working on a nuclear power station – that it’s hard work to clean some of the components on a power station, for instance. So when we’re thinking now about what kind of paint surface we want for the inside of the reactor building, I know we want a paint that’s easy to clean or which doesn’t attract as much dirt.

Similarly, I encourage my team to consider if it’s worth putting in the work now to make things better for the operators of the power station in the future. So they don’t to carry out extra checks or regular duties that could have been avoided. Through the work we do today, we get to shape how the plant will work when it’s operational.

Did you have to relocate to the South West?

A. I moved to Clevedon, when I came back from Paris, as my team were based in Bristol. I love it here, it’s beautiful. I was totally blessed in lockdown, as we can walk everywhere, be it the beach or shops. I’m also only a two-minute drive from the M5 so I can get to all our project locations fairly quickly.

What’s the workplace like?

A. What you get in the office – and we don’t need to be in the office every day – is access to a really good network. You’ll find people working here on all sorts of topics related to the project. And this makes it easier to solve a problem you’re working on because there will be someone here who might have part of the answer you need. Or, if they don’t, they’ll be able to introduce you to someone who does. That kind of networking is invaluable and isn’t easy to access remotely.

What’s important to you in the workplace?

A. The physical location of where I work is less important to me than who I work with. I like working with people who are passionate, engaged and driven by a common purpose.

I enjoyed the French working environment but it was completely different to here. In the UK, you’ll talk about what you’re working on, but we’ll also have really interesting and engaging conversations about life outside work too. There’s a lot of laughter here and I’ve made some really good friends during my time at EDF.

I’ll never get the opportunity to work on something this big ever again. It’s iconic – everyone knows Hinkley Point C

Heather Hale, Head of Engineering

Is Hinkley Point C a diverse and inclusive place to work?

A. It’s definitely inclusive here and we have a culturally diverse workforce. But we’re not there yet with gender diversity. There are some great female role models in the commercial, financial and legal teams – and we have made progress generally – but we need more females in the technical and engineering  arena, particularly at a senior level.

Gender diversity is much better in France as it’s really prestigious to be an engineer in Europe. It’s known for being a well-paid and respected career, so it attracts more women into the profession.

What do you like most about your job?

A. I get the most satisfaction when I’m able to help one of my team unlock a challenge that they’ve been working on for a long time. It’s really satisfying when you see them realise a solution. Or when they present their work to the board and you watch them fly. Helping to develop people is the most rewarding part of my job.

How will Hinkley Point C help with your career progression?

A. My experience at Hinkley Point C is invaluable because of the size of the project. I’ll never get the opportunity to work on something this big ever again. It’s iconic too – everyone knows Hinkley Point C.

There are also a lot of opportunities available within the project, so you’re constantly developing new skills. I’ve learnt how to manage multiple stakeholders, for instance. I also didn't really understand the commercial aspects of the project before, but I’ve been able to broaden my knowledge – and these possibilities are available to everyone on the project. 

Have you thought about next steps?

A. I do really love operations and the buzz of being close to the day-to-day action. So I’d consider a more operational senior leadership role in the future. Or maybe returning to France... I’ll consider any option so long as the work’s challenging and it interests me.

Want to develop your career at the UK’s first nuclear power station in more than 25 years? We’re looking for engineers, project managers, technical leads and more. Find out what vacancies we have available.