Emily Richards, BSc Environmental Science

As part of the Lancaster University and EDF Energy Industrial Placement scheme, Emily Richards, a BSc Environmental Science Student, undertook a funded placement at the Heysham 2 Nuclear Power Plant.

How and why did you choose to work with business?

“I did the placement because of my interest in the nuclear industry and furthered my interest through studying a module in environmental radioactivity. I also did my dissertation on radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea from Sellafield in the 1970s/80s. The placement sounded really exciting to me being able to work in such an interesting place with a very different work culture than I have been used to.”

What problem did the organisation face? What did they ask you to do to help them?

“Upon starting the job I was told my role would be to support the Health Physics team at Heysham 2. There were no specifics; work is mainly emergent and hence couldn't be planned in detail.

During my experience with EDF I have been involved in some larger bits of work such as valve changes in the irradiated fuel disposal, sending off instruments for repair, diesel emissions testing the diesel generators, along with a range of other tasks.”

What skills did you use and develop working with the company? Did you learn any new skills?

"Working alongside staff at EDF I have learnt many new skills, learning about the plant and nature of different types of radiation in more detail, and the use of instruments to detect radiation. I have also continued to develop pre-existing ones, such as computing and communication.”

What did you do?

“There is some important routine work, such as organising radiation instruments for calibration and monitoring volume of water pumped in from the harbour.

“The team have given me a lot of responsibility, enabling me to work independently and be trusted to do so. For that reason the placement is good. Also, I feel like I am making a decent contribution to the team.

“I have gained loads of experience, every day is different here. I'm based in the Environmental Safety Group (a really fun bunch of people to work with) and have been able to do things from diesel emissions testing to working in the irradiated fuel disposal cell.”

Did you get paid? Did it cost you anything? What expenses did you have and were they paid for by the organisation?

“For the placement I was paid £15,000, with all of my expenses covered by EDF.”

What was the best thing you think you did for the business?

“EDF is such a large corporation, the best thing I feel I did for the business was allowing some of the work to be offloaded off of other staff in the Environmental Safety Office, reducing their pressure whilst also allowing myself to become immersed within multiple aspects of the role. I also brought skills in computing and communication and have been able to run telemetric dosimetry software, which enables us to monitor nuclear doses received by workers remotely and in real time, helping to reduce the overall dose to a safe level.”

What was the best thing about the project for you?

“The best thing that the company has done for me, is to fast track the application procedure, allowing people like myself to automatically reach the interview stage for a post with EDF. I was therefore interviewed at HQ in Barnwood for a place on the Environmental Science grad scheme and the Health Physics grad scheme, and gained a place on both (I have subsequently accepted the Health Physics one)."

Did you get a job because of it?

“Yes! The scheme is around 1.5 years where I will work at three EDF sites and I am working my way to becoming an Accredited Health Physicist for EDF. Health Physicists are able to work anywhere in the world and so many exciting opportunities lie ahead.

“I cannot recommend the placement enough; it's not often you can have a job where you are excited to go to work!”

What career do you hope to pursue at the end of your course and how has your project helped you achieve that? Did it help you make any decisions on your career?

“It has massively helped me further my career. The placement helped confirm what kind of job I wanted to do, and I continue to work for EDF.

“I have gained a place on both the Health Physics grad scheme and the Environmental Science grad scheme. I have since accepted the Health Physics one. The placement really helped me to get there and in the interview I was able to discuss real examples in the industry from my experience at Heysham. I will be going on to my training courses in September to work my way to becoming an engineer, with the hope of being an accredited Health Physicist for EDF in the next couple of years. The support of my colleagues and how much I enjoyed the placement helped me to decide on my career path with EDF.”

Can you describe what it’s like studying at a top global 1% Lancaster University?

“Lancaster was one of the last university opens days I went to as a prospective student, however it was the only open day where I came away with a smile and said to my parents I could imagine going to university there. That initial feeling was completely right; the three years I spent at Lancaster were fantastic.

Studying within LEC was great, the facilities were good, and the staff were always helpful and you could get all the support you need if you looked in the right places. The modules I chose allowed me to study a great breadth of subjects. The modules were always engaging, as the lecturers often had specific research in the area they were teaching in; so you really felt like you were getting top-class and relevant information and teaching.

The campus also had great facilities and the collegiate system makes the whole place seem incredibly friendly. You can’t walk from one end of the campus to another without smiling and saying hello to somebody you know.”

Would you recommend your course to prospective students? If so, why?

“I absolutely loved my course and couldn't recommend Lancaster University more! I definitely wouldn’t have this job and my career ahead of me without Lancaster. The staff are particularly helpful and my course directly related to the work I do now.”