Martin Paley, BSc (Hons) Earth and Environmental Science

As part of the Lancaster University and EDF Energy Industrial Placement scheme, Martin Paley, a BSc Earth and 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 first saw an advert through Lancaster University in my first year and immediately sent an email of interest. (Un)fortunately, it had already been arranged to spend my next year abroad and therefore would not be able to take the next year out. I sought other placement opportunities during my second year in which I was successful at Urenco (a nuclear enrichment facility based near Chester). I was close to starting at Urenco when I got confirmation that I was successful in an interview with EDF at Heysham 2 which was more desirable for me. I therefore rejected Urenco and looked forward to starting with EDF.

The energy industry has always appealed to me in the sense that there’s potential for cross disciplines between engineering and environment, especially with the emergence of renewables and climate targets. The nuclear industry in particular is interesting for the controversy it holds."

What skills have you developed?

"The industrial placement is a steep learning curve but everything you learn is relevant and directly applicable to the work you do and environment you’re in; this makes it easier. The nuclear industry is not the easiest to comprehend: Simple tasks can require a number of elements to fall into place and procedures to be strictly followed. Consequently, you learn to carry out tasks to a very high standard.

Workplaces are more complex than I thought, but the energy at Heysham 2 really radiates between employees which helps fuel high quality work.

Integration with work colleagues is critical – working together towards a common objective and being able to easily integrate with others. Getting along with other people means it’s not just what you know, it’s who you know."

What did you do and what were your early experiences?

"I felt completely bewildered in the first two weeks with the use of acronyms, the size of the place, protocols, computer usage and tasks and how much there is to a nuclear facility. This was less so but still existed in the second two weeks. I then felt integrated as part of a team, knew where to go and who to speak to.

An environmental background did not hold me back from applying myself practically in a nuclear fuel route department.

I really enjoyed the practical working experience which is exactly why I applied for the scheme. I threw myself head-first into a project which grew arms and legs as it unfurled and incorporated many different elements into it. It was a perfect learning experience.

Working as an industrial placement student has helped me realise I’m capable of achieving things I didn’t think I would seek in my life."

What are your future plans?

"I’m studying Earth and Environmental Science due to a passion for the outdoors and the desire to gain an understanding of the world and how it works. I’ve always been interested to understand how things work in any sense and was glad to explore the engineering avenue during my year-out which is a topic I’ve been equally interested in pursuing. I started my year at EDF with the intention of gaining practical work experience and learning about how an organisation works to help myself when venturing into the big wide world of work. I still have two years before I leave university and I do not have any long-term plans defined in my head. I plan to take each year as it comes which will consequently shape my decisions and direct where my future may lead. From this, I would say that plans can always change and you can find yourself in situations you would never expect but you can still make the most out of them.

I plan to define my last year of university around Christmas time with the possible intention of combining both Environmental Science and Engineering together."

What advice would you provide to students considering an industrial placement?

"Don’t be afraid of applying yourself to something completely new – you’ll be surprised as to how much you can achieve with the right attitude. I’ve ventured from designing a wind turbine blade at Lancaster and surveying fault lines in Iceland to being responsible for equipment that moves irradiated nuclear fuel. Nothing is out of reach."