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  • Role: Project Manager - Legislative Reform, Department of Energy and Climate Change
  • University: Newcastle
  • Degree: Mechanical Engineering

Dan Sweeney

What do you actually do?

I work in and around government policy advisors that control and change policy related to nuclear energy. My main role is to remove ‘red tape’ in the nuclear sector by changing legislation that is not necessary or that may provide a burden to companies in the nuclear industry and a barrier to further investment.

I have also been taken in other directions to work on ‘powers of entry’ (the rights of the government to enter private property) for nuclear sites and review if these should be modified to protect public freedoms. I am working in Whitehall and I am surrounded by the major issues facing the nuclear sector.

Being in this environment is different to every job role I have previously experienced and it has sparked a real interest in politics, policy and government strategy.

What do you plan to do when the graduate scheme ends?

My immediate plans are to return to Rolls-Royce Submarines in Derby, who are my sponsors for the graduate scheme. My long-term future is undecided but hopefully it will continue in the nuclear sector. There is a diverse and expanding range of jobs that require skilled nuclear engineers; therefore the choice is a difficult one.

Had you contemplated a career in the nuclear sector while at university?

I was interested in the energy and defence industries but this did not extend to nuclear. I knew very little about the nuclear industry until researching sectors to apply for graduate job roles.

What attracted you to the nuclear sector and the nucleargraduates scheme?

I was first attracted by the industry. I realised the possibility for future developments not only in the fusion and fast reactor technology that could solve energy problems, but also in other areas such as political barriers, public perception, overcoming the legacy and the importance of nuclear defence.

The diversity and the challenges of the industry attracted me. I then saw nucleargraduates as the best way to learn about the sector as no other scheme offered the same variety and opportunities for development.

What is the most memorable thing that’s happened to you since you joined the scheme?

There are many things that I could pick as the most memorable. Meeting David Cameron and the Energy Secretary Ed Davis in Paris, standing inside the reactor compartment of a submarine, visiting the UN offices and CERN in Geneva, creating and running my own business and walking past Downing Street every morning on the way into work. However, given that I am anticipating an upcoming trip to Chernobyl in the Ukraine, the best might be still to come.

What skills do you need to succeed at what you do?

With the range of jobs that are available in the sector, most skill sets can be paired with a suitable role. Generally I believe that to make the most of the scheme you will need to be hard-working and want to challenge yourself. Good communication, people skills, enthusiasm and confidence will go a long way to making a good impression in the workplace.

What would you say to reassure graduates who feel uncertain about the nuclear industry?

In my opinion there is very little uncertainty in the future of the nuclear industry. Published government strategies are dependent on nuclear energy for electricity.

Many countries are looking to develop a civil nuclear programme and developments in technology, nuclear site decommissioning, waste management and other applications are creating a very secure industry. MOD strategic reviews also secure the future of the nuclear defence programme for the next 50 years.

What advice would you give to any graduates looking to join the nucleargraduates scheme?

Be aware that this is not a 9-5 job. If you take all the opportunities that you will be offered you will have very little time for much else. If you are keen to learn and develop, this is a very good scheme.

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