Maxwell completed an electrical and computer engineering BEng before going on to study for an applied instrumentation and control MSc at Glasgow Caledonian University. He now works for EDF Energy and is located at one of their sites in France...
I completed a three-month Masters project with EDF Energy at Hunterston B Power Station in September 2009, which was part of the applied instrumentation and control MSc programme. After going through the necessary graduate recruitment process, I started work with EDF Energy in October 2009 as a graduate trainee.
During the one-year graduate programme I carried out French training and went to EDF Energy nuclear sites and design offices in the UK. I then started my current job in October 2010 and have been put on a secondment to France.
Studying applied instrumentation and control was important to securing my current job. The course curriculum was developed in consultation with industry so it is very relevant and I was equipped with the necessary principles after completing the programme. I believe that instrumentation and control engineers will always be in great demand as their systems play such a vital role in the nuclear industry.
I get to the office at 8am. After the early morning coffee and consulting my calendar for the day and the week, I proceed to draw up a plan for the day and attend to any emails that need immediate action.
Working on a project known as Flamanville 3 means that I get to organise and attend lots of meetings and teleconferences with contractors, suppliers or other EDF partners. When I'm not attending a meeting I spend time working on design and modifications to instrumentation and control diagrams for nuclear power cooling systems. I also spend time writing technical documents based on design or functional studies of plant systems. I finish my day at 5.30pm.
I started out as an instrumentation and control design engineer. The scope of my work has however expanded to include a good understanding of thermodynamics, fluid mechanics, electrical engineering and mechanics.
In addition, I have had to develop not only my trouble-shooting and problem-solving skills but also my project management skills. I am currently working towards becoming a chartered member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) . I plan to continually increase my competence and my knowledge of the European Power Reactor (EPR) technology in order to take up a project management role on the UK EPR project.
I enjoy working with different internal customers, contractors, suppliers, EDF partners and French and UK nuclear regulatory authorities, as it improves my technical and project management skills. I also enjoy the fact that I contribute actively to meeting future energy demands by taking design studies for the construction of the EPR across the world. The ability to carry out technical work in French on a daily basis is an invaluable asset. My job also gives me the opportunity to travel.
Working on a large project like the Flamanville 3 EPR means that there are lots of deliverables at every point in time. The biggest challenge has got to be project managing my tasks, including supervision of contractors' design work, meetings, timely response to technical queries from internal and external customers, preparation of system description manuals and preparation of technical documents. Taking into account that all these tasks have to be executed in French, makes it extra challenging.
Working in the nuclear sector offers a rewarding career experience with potential for growth. This sector believes strongly in training employees and so there are always opportunities to expand your skills. With new power stations currently been built around the world (notably in France, China and soon the UK) job opportunities are destined to increase.
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