We need to promote interest in nuclear professions
The new President of Women in Nuclear Global, Dominique Mouillot, considers that the pandemic obliges us to reinvent our way of working together and communicate. She believes that “the climate change is the challenge of the 21st Century as well as the gender equality between men and women”. “We need to promote interest in nuclear engineering, science and other nuclear-related professions, especially among women and young people”, she adds, considering that “nuclear is one of the most low-carbon energy sources”.
Congratulations on your appointment. It comes at a complicated time globally because of the pandemic. How are you facing this?
Indeed, it’s a complicated time, but it obliges us to reinvent our way of working together and communicate.
The yearly WiN Global Conference, which should take place in Canada from the 5th to the 8th of October, has been postponed of one year. Meanwhile, to hold our General Assembly in 2020 and officialise the election of the new President, we have organized a webinar le 5th of October. Furthermore, we regularly have Teams meetings with the Steering Committee.
What type of activities will you be doing, and how will you promote WiN around the world?
Climate change is the challenge of the 21st Century, as well as gender equality between men and women. As President of WiN Global, I feel that now is the right moment for WiN Global to strongly act for them and we will carry out some actions in this sense.
WiN Global is an international network of experts, a panel of skilled professionals with wide experience and knowledge in different areas related to nuclear technologies, and with our experts, we will actively contribute to climate change debates, conferences, etc. During this pandemic, the usefulness and effectiveness of new communication technologies (videoconferences, webinars…) have been demonstrated. So, now is the moment to take advantage of them as long as it is not possible to meet personally.
Related to gender equality, WiN Global will continue working in many initiatives for achieving diversity and, in particular, gender balance in nuclear science professions. Some examples are the support actions to promote Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), our mentoring program and the promotion of nuclear careers (job opportunities, grants, trainees, internships…)
"Climate change is the challenge of the 21st Century, as well as gender equality between men and women"
What are your priorities for your two-year mandate in this organization, with 35,000 members spread out over 109 countries?
In addition to WiN Global contribution to climate change debate and gender equality issues, I will work on some key strategic actions for going ahead and strengthening our Association. In particular:
- To improve communication using new technoloigies and social networks with the aim of promoting the factual understanding and public awareness of the benefits of nucleare and radiation applications.
- To attract and federate young people within WiN Global. We will create a “WiN Global Young Generation Group” and we will reinforce our relations and joint activities with IYNC (International Youth Nuclear Congress).
- To enlarge partnerships and sponsoring. Of course, we already collaborate with the main organizations in the nuclear sector, but we want to enlarge collaborations with other professional women networks. In my opinion, it’s very important to improve relations with renewable energy networks because they have a key role, together with nuclear energy, in the future mix energetic to fight against climate change.
What are the main goals pursued by WiN global and WiN’s offices in different countries?
We founded WiN in 1993 with the aim of supporting and encouraging women working in nuclear science and its applications throughout the world, particularly in energy and radiation applications. WiN Global aims to promote understanding and public awareness of the benefits of nuclear and radiation applications through a series of active networks. Members have a common commitment to provide the public with information and an opportunity to communicate.
We are open to any applicant involved in the promotion of nuclear activities who pledges to adhere to the goals of the WiN Charter -men are also very welcome to join us.
“WiN aims to promote understanding and public awareness of the benefits of nuclear”
In particular, our objectives are:
- To develop a dialogue with the public looking for promoting awareness and education of the contribution of nuclear technologies to people and society.
- To contribute to knowledge and experience exchange between members and chapters.
- To promote interest in nuclear engineering, science and other nuclear-related professions, especially among women and young people.
- To achieve diversity and, in particular, gender balance in nuclear science professions.
You were president of WiN France for 15 years. How has public perception evolved in your country regarding this type of energy and women’s presence in the nuclear sector?
The majority of French people believe nuclear energy will continue to play a role in the future energy mix. Nuclear power is perceived as an important economic sector. French people believe that nuclear will always be present in the future, together with renewable energies. But, nuclear power is perceived rather negatively from an environmental point of view. One of our main objectives in WiN France is to communicate positive about nuclear, to explain people how it works and the contribution of nuclear technologies to society.
"In France, nuclear power perceived as an important economic sector"
In France, only 24% of professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics are women. In nuclear power, in 2018, there were 24% women. The number of women which was 17% in 2015 from 11% in 2011, is therefore already slightly increasing, ie 6% between 2011 and 2015 and another 7% from 2015 to 2018.
The professions in the nuclear industry are developed mostly by high-level professionals. 70% of people are managers or ETAM (Employees, Technicians and Supervisors), mostly in non-nuclear professions.
We need to promote interest in nuclear engineering, science and other nuclear-related professions, especially among women and young people. WiN France, and also WiN Global of course, are working on it with different actions and our mentoring programs.
"We need to promote interest in nuclear engineering, science and other nuclear-related professions, especially among women and young people"
Do you consider that the high contribution of nuclear power to the French electric system will be maintained for a long time?
The nuclear sector is the third largest industrial sector in France, behind aeronautics and automobiles, with 3,000 companies and 220,000 employees. In 2019, it produced more than 70% of the country’s electricity.
French government announced on September 3 the “France Relance“, a plan to “build the France of 2030”. It is about “accelerating the ecological conversion of the economy” and investing “in the most promising areas, those which will create the economy and the jobs of tomorrow”.
An amount of 470 million euros will be invested in nuclear energy, to “invest in skills and training, support sub-contractors in the sector and prepare the future by funding research for the design of SMRs, the NuwardTM5 project, the French SMR”.
Also, it is important to mention that we have the PPE (Programmation Pluriannuelle de l’Énergie) for 2019-2023 and 2024-2028. The PPE establishes the roadmap for every type of energy. The contribution of nuclear energy will be reduced from 71,6% in 2017 to 50 % in 2035 (shutdown of 14 nuclear reactors 900 MW until 2035) and the contribution of renewable energies in the energetic mix will be increased. However, the increase in renewable energy contribution cannot support alone the increase in electricity demand in France, so the construction of 6 new reactors, EPR2 technology, is planned. This project is currently being evaluated by the French government and the decision will be taken in 2022.
"The nuclear sector is the third largest industrial sector in France, behind aeronautics and automobiles"
What are your main arguments to defend nuclear power and the role of women in the development of this technology?
Global demand for electricity continues to rise as countries need to provide enough power to allow their economies to prosper. The world’s growing population will require a significant increase in energy provision. Nuclear is one of the most low-carbon energy sources. It is essential to fight climate change and greenhouse gas emissions, and it is also a reliable energy (24 hours / 7 days), a cost-effective energy with high security levels.
Women working in the nuclear sector have a high qualification. Within WiN Global, as I already said, we are an international network of experts. We can provide our expertise, skills, vision, sensitivity and commitment for the development and sustainability of this energy.
“Nuclear is one of the most low-carbon energy sources”
What do you think will be the role of nuclear power in Europe and the rest of the world?
The European Union is currently working on a European Green Deal. “Europe’s roadmap for green transition that should help it cut emissions, create jobs and open up new opportunities”. We need to avoid carbon emissions and reduce them. With nuclear energy you can reduce carbon emissions and combat climate change. There are 109 nuclear reactors operating in EU member states (post Brexit). These reactors generate almost 50% of its low-carbon electricity. So, it is obvious that nuclear energy has a key role to support the EU Green Deal. Europe needs to invest not only in new plants but also in improving the performance from existing reactors for the long-term operation.
Regarding nuclear energy in the world, around 10% of the world’s electricity is generated by about 440 nuclear power reactors. About 50 more reactors are under construction, equivalent to approximately 15% of existing capacity. The situation is the same than in Europe, to fight climate change, the world will need all low-carbon energies on a large scale, including nuclear together with renewable energies. Good news are that nuclear power is available today in all major greenhouse gas emitting regions: China, the United States, India, etc… And It represents a real low-carbon alternative to coal.
Also, we need to take into account the development of future nuclear technologies (as SMRs). They could enable to decarbonize sectors other than electricity, such as industry, hydrogen production…
“Around 10% of the world's electricity is generated by about 440 nuclear power reactors”
GDES is a member of the Spanish Nuclear Industry Forum, and you are Vice President of its French subsidiary. What do you know about the Spanish nuclear industry, and what types of synergies are established with the French nuclear industry?
[In Spain] there are 7 nuclear operating reactors in 5 sites and 3 under decommissioning. Additionally, Spain has a low and medium activity radioactive waste disposal facility at El Cabril, a nuclear fuel factory in Juzbado and also, I know the research center Ciemat.
In Spain, nuclear energy generated around 23 % of the electricity during 2019 and contributed 37 % of the emission-free electricity to the system. There are also discussions regarding life extension and, of course, with public perception, same than the most European countries…
I always felt concerned by the synergies between French and Spanish nuclear industries. It is for this reason that I organized last year a meeting between the Sociedad Nuclear Española (SNE) and the Societé Francaise D’Energie Nucleaire (SFEN) to look for opportunities, synergies and collaboration.
Another important way of finding collaboration opportunities between Spanish and French nuclear companies are the “Jornadas de la Industria Nuclear España-Francia” organised the Foro Nuclear in collaboration with the Spanish Embassy in France and the support of ICEX España Exportación e Inversiones.
“I always felt concerned by the synergies between French and Spanish nuclear industries”
What is your role as Vice President of GDES France?
France is a priority country for GDES development. My role is to propose the strategy to be implemented in France in collaboration with the Strategy Committee of GDES Group. In particular, my main tasks are:
- To promote the know-how and competencies of GDES Group beside the French stakeholders and main customers.
- To be active in business development
- To coordinate the business units in France.
- To address the feedback of the French market to our CEO, Héctor Dominguis, and to organize meetings for him with the decision makers in France.
Would you like to add anything?
I’m honored to have been elected as new President of WiN Global. I’m convinced that our association has a key role to play in the climate change issue. In a world completely shaken by the pandemic crisis of Covid-19, facing so many challenges, good and bad, I definitely want to keep the faith.