EDF Energy Radwaste Project
I joined the project [to design and develop a new liquid radwaste treatment system for EDF Energy] around last November, at the point when the team was just doing a final evaluation of the options available. This is the main contract that I'm working on - and because I'm straight out of the graduate scheme, I'm currently working as an engineer. In time I'll progress to lead engineer, and after that, onto successively bigger projects.
One of the things about nuclear projects is that we prefer to use technology that's tried and tested, because this underpins the development of the related safety cases. We need to know that that the new system will work reliably and safely, and that people have experience of it. In this instance, we're using fairly standard components to develop a solution, but obviously in a very bespoke situation. Most of our projects are one-offs, so there's a lot of engineering time involved in getting it right first time. Hopefully, this is one that we'll be able to use again across different EDF Energy power stations.
We normally start out with just a concept design, which we then start developing with the client to make sure it meets their key requirements. We then decide on the preferred components and move on to examining the design philosophy in detail. After that, we'll start looking at all the nuts and bolts - such as how it's actually going to fit together, how big it's going to be and where it's to be located.
The transition from one stage to the next is fairly extended. You don't tend to finish the scoping on Friday and start the detail on the Monday. Most of the kit at this stage is relatively undefined and it's only in the next few months that we'll start to know exactly what direction we're going to take with it.
We're a fairly small team - there's currently myself, another mechanical engineer, two electrical engineers and the lead process engineer working on the project. We work quite closely with the client and go onsite once every month or so, taking down all the latest documentation. Meeting face-to-face always works much better than trying to do this over the phone.
This department has a pretty regular flow of graduates - one of our electrical engineers on the project is still a graduate on the scheme. I think graduates find they get a lot out of this placement because they get to do important design work and they're are treated as a full member of the team. This department very quickly moves you on to work where you're stretching yourself, doing things that you've never done before - but always with plenty of support. On a personal level, that's great for your career development.