Daniel Gallego
Featured voices - February 16, 2021

Daniel Gallego

Vice President of the European Nuclear Young Generation Forum 2021

“We young people have a bright future in the nuclear field”

The European Nuclear Young Generation Forum (ENYGF) will take place in Tarragona, Spain, September 27 to 30. It will have a hybrid format and the goal to bring together young professionals in the nuclear field all over Europe. We have spoken to the Vice President of this congress. He is a member of Jóvenes Nucleares (Nuclear Young Generation Spain) and a nuclear professional. Currently, Daniel Gallego works as an analysis and results improvement technician for the Ascó and Vandellós II nuclear power plants in Tarragona. “This congress is an opportunity to generate synergies and share knowledge with nuclear professionals from all over Europe on the leading and most current issues in the field”, he indicates.

What can attendants expect to find at this European congress for Jóvenes Nucleares?

This edition, which we are organizing in cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), is dedicated to debating the main “hot topics” in the field for the next decade: radioactive waste management, advances in nuclear materials and fuel, SMR reactors and the role of nuclear power in the energy transition. The technical aspect also encompasses disciplines that cover the main research fields in the sector.

The congress agenda has been designed based on case studies and oral technical sessions on the hot topics. There will also be plenary sessions and workshops with the participation of international stakeholders from the industrial and scientific community.

The European Nuclear Young Generation, ENYGF’21 will be held in Tarragona (Spain) on September 27 to 30, with a hybrid format

It will be held in Tarragona, with Jóvenes Nucleares Spain in charge of the organization. How do you organize a congress in the midst of a pandemic?

The truth is that it’s not being easy, but we were prepared to react on time. We started to organize it practically since we won the nomination at the last ENYGF in the summer of 2019. We are optimistic!

The team we have put together is showing spectacular commitment. We are taking cautious but firm steps and we really look forwards to organizing a large congress. The initial change of dates, as well as adapting to a hybrid format, are actions along these lines which I believe are the right choice.

We also benefit from the experience of other organizations —such as our “alma mater”, the Spanish Nuclear Society (SNE)— in the organization of virtual congresses in 2020.

This congress was delayed because of the pandemic, and you finally decided on a hybrid format. How will the in-person and digital formats be organized? Will there be technical visits?

We decided to modify the organization to a hybrid format to give our participants maximum flexibility so they can opt between in-person attendance or remote participation.

When it came to thinking of a Spanish city to propose for the nomination (not an easy task), we chose Tarragona for various reasons. It was not just because of the historic and cultural attractions or the Mediterranean weather, but also because of the excellent opportunities for nuclear technical visits that we hope we will be able to do: operative and decommissioned plants, simulators, etc.

“Tarragona, the host city of ENYGF, will allow nuclear technical visits, such as operating plants or simulators.”

Regarding the in-person aspect, we could not resist the charm of “El Seminari” in Tarragona, a venue with wide open spaces. We are anticipating the respective sanitary measures in the organization, such as limitating in-person attendance and reinforcing all the personal measures that we are becoming accustomed to.

We are planning digital attendance for the correct integration of both in-person and remote attendants so we can achieve a good synchronism.

Historic site of an ancient Roman amphitheater near the Mediterranean coast in Tarragona, Spain

What are the goals of the European Nuclear Young Generation Forum, and what experiences have you had regarding attendants, networking, etc, in previous congresses?

ENYGF is an international knowledge transference platform that brings the younger people in the field in contact with other people with consolidated professional careers, in a debate forum where they can share good practices in the nuclear field as well as their work. The main goal is precisely that, generating synergies and sharing knowledge with nuclear professionals.

“This conference seeks to generate synergies and share knowledge with nuclear professionals throughout Europe”

At previous ENYGF editions, held in Europe every two years to build valuable professional and relationships and friendships, attendance was 200 to 300 people.

We also had the great privilege of counting on the experiences and input from other colleagues that were part of Jóvenes Nucleares before us to help us design our program and maintain good practices while at the same time innovating and embracing the future. This is the reason we used the slogan “LOOK AHEAD!” FOR ENYGF’21 from the beginning.

Daniel Gallego en Asco
Daniel Gallego, at the Ascó Nuclear Power Plant (Tarragona, Spain) where he works

Nuclear professionals can give presentations, and the deadline is approaching. How would you encourage attendants to become participants as well?

In line with ENYGF’s goals, I believe it is very interesting to actively participate as a speaker to share and make visible each person’s knowledge of nuclear issues, as well as their work. It is a great opportunity to exchange experiences and learn from our colleagues, both in our own field and others: it all adds up!

To participate in the congress we ask appliers to send original papers. These will be reviewed and published on the congress minutes book with their own ISBN.

Also, the presentations with the highest scores from the reviewing team will be proposed for publication in a specialized volume of the “ASME Journal of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Science” on ENYGF’21.

I encourage all young people in the field to send their abstract (a summary of up to 400 words) before the deadline on February 19th!

“I encourage all young people in the field to send their abstract to give a presentation at the congress”

What is the future like for young people in the nuclear sector, both nationally and internationally?

I sincerely believe they (we) have a bright future in this field, not just as we traditionally think of it with nuclear fission. From a more complete point of view we could add nuclear medicine or nuclear fusion, which every day comes closer to being a reality. And we must not forget that long-term operating licenses are still being granted to existing nuclear power plants and that there are over 50 plants in construction worldwide.

“I believe young people have a bright future in the nuclear field. Not just in nuclear fission, but also in nuclear medicine or fusion.”

As a producer of electricity in Spain with just 6.5% of total installed power, nuclear generation is still the main source of production (and it’s been ten consecutive years,) supplying over 20% of the citizen’s needs every year. It is the most reliable and efficient source of emissions-free electric generation.

If the plan is to decarbonize the system, it would be very hard to do this without choosing a mix of renewables and nuclear power, the reason being, among others, that they are the only sources that do not generate CO2.

Thus, I encourage young people to enter this exciting sector in constant growth and with constant research in national and international projects that are greatly relevant to society.

“I encourage young people to enter this exciting field, in constant growth and with constant research”

As Vice President of ENYGF, what responsibilities did you have to take on?

As General Vice-Chair, I act as a link and coordinator among the different committees (and their leaders) that we have put together for the congress organization: the organizing, financial, technical and communication committees.

At first, the main responsibility was to design a functional flow chart for our purposes and add support. Once this is achieved, my tasks are broad regarding planning and follow-up of the actions of each committee in the organization of a congress like this.

As well as doing this type of activities internally, I also deal with different organizations interested in participating in the congress one way or another, such as AIEA or the various companies in the nuclear field, and of course with SNE; without their support this would have been impossible.

You are a spokesperson for the Management Board and coordinator of Jóvenes Nucleares in Catalonia. Who are its components, and what are your goals?

Jóvenes Nucleares is a commission of the Spanish Nuclear Society (SNE), a non-profit association which was declared a public interest in 1996. We are an association of students and professionals that contributes to the dissemination of science and nuclear technology, from a basic level through lectures and activities in schools and high schools to a specialized level with activities in universities and technical visits to various sites. There are 18 associations of the Nuclear Young Generation in Europe and 32 worldwide.

We pursue three fundamental goals: to promote the transference of knowledge and experiences amongst different generations of professionals in the nuclear field; to spread knowledge on nuclear power and other applications of ionizing radiations, pointing out their role in the welfare of society, encouraging communication and debate and facilitating the inclusion of young professionals in the field.

“Jóvenes Nucleares is an association of students and professionals that contributes to the dissemination of science and nuclear technology”

You are an engineer at the nuclear power plants in Tarragona. What does your job entail?

Currently I work at the Ascó and Vandellós II nuclear power plants as analysis and results improvement technician for the corporate quality group in the Ascó-Vandellós Nuclear Association (ANAV). My job comprises an ample range of activities, such as supervising the operation and continuous improvement of the ANAV plants with tools like event cause analysis or managing in-house and industry operating experience (World Association of Nuclear Operators - WANO), among others.

Previous to that I worked five years as reactor and nuclear safeguards engineer at the Ascó Nuclear Power Plant, where I began my career as a nuclear professional. In this unit I dealt with aspects such as the operational control of both reactors, reception of the IAEA and Euratom inspections, and everything pertaining to the supervision and management of nuclear fuel and its associated tasks: from its reception, still fresh (new) and not irradiated, to its entry (loading) into the reactor for the cycle and unloading during refueling, passing through spent fuel pools and then into storage at the temporary storage facility at the plant.

A few months ago you gave a conference on fuel recharges at nuclear power plants. Can you summarize in a few lines what they are and how they are organized?

The main goal of these refueling outages is to replace spent fuel (considered waste, and approximately one third of the total) with new fuel. Fuel elements (new and used in the previous cycle) are rearranged inside the reactor nucleus in order to find an optimal new configuration for maximum efficiency and use.

“The main goal of refueling outages at nuclear power plants is to replace spent fuel with new fuel”

Refueling outage
Refueling outage in Spanish nuclear power plants

Also, during the outages numerous tests and all kinds of maintenance tasks are performed on the corresponding equipment, systems and components at the plant.

During these periods, which last around a month before resynchronization with the electric grid, nuclear power plants almost duplicate their usual workforce to carry out all these activities. For this reason, planning, interdepartmental communication and team work are of vital importance and start many months before the reactor is turned off for refueling.

Please add anything you like. Thank you!

I would like to express my gratitude to Foro Nuclear for their coverage and interest in the realization of this interview, and of course to SNE. Without their support organizing this event would not have been possible. I would also like to thank my colleagues and friends at Jóvenes Nucleares for their professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment in this adventure, in spite of current circumstances.

“I would like to thank my colleagues and friends at Jóvenes Nucleares for their professionalism, enthusiasm and commitment”

Lastly, I would again like to encourage all young (and not so young) nuclear professionals in Spain to join this European congress we are organizing in our country with great enthusiasm and effort. Thank you!

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