Professor Melanie Brownridge is the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) Technology and Innovation Director.
Melanie studied chemistry to PhD level in the UK and Germany and some of her other academic achievements include being a visiting professor at University of Leeds, international advisor to IRID (International Institute for Decommissioning in Japan), and a non-executive director on the Board for Nuclear Waste Services. In 2020, she was named by Women in Nuclear as ‘Champion of the Year’.
The NDA is responsible for keeping the UK’s oldest nuclear sites safe and secure, as we decommission them – ours is one of the most important environmental programmes in the world, protecting people and the planet.
Technology and innovation are helping us transform how we do this, allowing us to understand our challenges and deliver new solutions to address them. It’s really exciting to work in an innovative environment on a mission that is so important.
But, to create an environment where innovation can thrive it’s important to harness diversity of thinking and, in an industry that is typically male dominated, International Women’s Day provides an opportunity to highlight that.
When I joined the nuclear industry, I was inspired by Dame Sue Ion who was the Technical Director at British Nuclear Fuels Ltd – her expertise and credibility in such a role immediately gave me something to aim for in my career.
Within the NDA group, I’m incredibly proud to see how we are sharing stories, successes and highlighting female role models in an important way to inspire others and encouraging mentoring across the businesses.
Ensuring we have representation at all levels across the organisation and supporting women in their professional growth is instrumental in driving change. Our Women’s Development Leadership Programme has supported 120 women with an ambition to move into leadership roles to ensure we have diverse representation at a senior level.
But we also need to continue to send the message that nuclear is an industry for women, reaching out and attracting women to the sector by showing the NDA is a diverse and inclusive place to work. To help deliver on that we’re collaborating with Women in Nuclear UK, being a corporate member provides a great opportunity to drive this work forward.
Our work in Technology and Innovation across the NDA group is definitely an asset in attracting new talent into the organisation, showing how you’ll get the opportunity to work with exceptional partners in research, academia and industry on innovation and cutting-edge technology to deliver our mission and keep people safe.
Over the last year we have seen our collaboration with the defence sector in particular grow, looking at technologies such as, advanced robotics, virtual reality, and machine learning, which are revolutionising our ability to access contaminated areas, which are unsafe or impossible for humans to enter.
And these technologies have applications outside of nuclear decommissioning, they could be truly transformational in other hazardous environments, for example treating wounded soldiers on battlefields.
As well as working on these exciting collaborations, my role at the NDA has given me so many other interesting opportunities. Some achievements I am exceptionally proud of are giving evidence to the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee inquiry into Nuclear Research & Development, being a visiting Professor at the University of Leeds and being invited to join the Technical Advisory Group for the STEP fusion programme ensuring we are collaborating across the fields of nuclear fission and fusion.
However, I think the achievements that mean the most are people focussed. Working with Nuclear Graduates, working with students in academia and industry and seeing them progress and achieve brilliant things, that feels like the biggest achievement.
My biggest female role model is my Mum because she encouraged me to follow my own path, showed me that authenticity is important, and that kindness is not a weakness, but a huge strength to build the sort of future I want. I hope that like my Mum, I can inspire and encourage my daughters and other young women to follow their dreams, whatever they may be.
The NDA’s mission is a long-term challenge which means there are so many possibilities and opportunities. If you’re interested in a career with us you can visit our website to find out more Working for NDA – Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.