Ever wondered what actually happens in a nuclear power plant? We caught up with Beth Gant who works in Engineering Maintenance, Nuclear Operations at the Sizewell B Nuclear Power plant. On a day-to-day basis, Beth's work is varied. As a maintenance engineer apprentice, she works on a variety of pieces of kit such as valve pumps, compressors and large engines and gets to move from job to job all around the nuclear power station.
What’s been the most rewarding project you’ve worked on at the power station?
It's not a project but the most rewarding work that I have been a part of at the station was the work carried out during the outage, this is because there's a huge amount of work to complete in a short space of time so we have many contractors on site to carry out 24-hour working. It was interesting to meet people from all over the world who work at loads of different power stations and learn from them. It was also the first time I could go into our containment building and see the reactor for myself.
How would you describe your job to someone interested in taking the same career path as you?
My job is hands-on, where you can be working with a wide range of mechanical components, this is great for people like me who are kinaesthetic learners and thrive off the active nature of the job. It's also great for learning extracurricular skills such as machining and fabrication.
What would an ideal day look like for you at the power plant?
My ideal work day would be being put on a job that I am able to learn a lot from, such as carrying out maintenance on our huge diesel engines. When I work on a job like this with experienced technicians I am able to expand my knowledge while getting hands-on with the equipment. It's also hugely sociable working with so many teams.
What do you most enjoy doing at the power plant and why?
I enjoy fault finding on the plant, it's tremendously satisfying identifying and fixing faults. This is definitely more interesting than routine maintenance as I can see the difference my fixes make.
What do you look forward to every day at the power station?
I enjoy stripping the large pieces of plant down such as the huge heat pumps and gearboxes as it's impressive when you see just how large the components can be.
How do you explain your job to your friends?
That I fix big technical puzzles!
What drew you to work in nuclear energy industry?
I applied for the apprenticeship because it gave me an opportunity to get hands-on experience and achieve a qualification. By working in nuclear I get a high level of training and experience that is safety focused. I also believe that as a country we need to lower our carbon emissions and I am proud that I am able to contribute to that by helping to produce low-carbon energy.
What do you think are the most common myths about nuclear power?
One very common myth that people believe is that nuclear fuel glows green, like in the Simpsons. Our of the water, the fuel doesn't glow at all however when it's in water it does have a blue glow. Another myth I think a lot of people believe is that nuclear waste just gets dumped into the environment, here at Sizewell B all the spent fuel that has powered the grid for the last 25 years is stored safely on-site!
What are your thoughts on the role of nuclear energy in helping the UK reach net zero?
I think it is important that the UK utilises nuclear power to help reach net zero as nuclear is a reliable source of power that is able to operate whatever the weather, meaning that come rain or shine a nuclear station will keep producing low-carbon electricity.
How do you see the role of nuclear power alongside renewables?
I think we can use nuclear to enable us to expand renewables and then we will be able to use nuclear and renewable together to reach net zero.