Country Leader of Small Modular Reactors, GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy & President, Women in Nuclear Canada
Mediaplanet spoke with Lisa McBride of GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy about the industry’s impact and opportunities, including for women.
Why is Canada’s nuclear energy industry more important than ever right now?
Nuclear energy is clean, safe, and reliable energy that’s helping us to meet our net-zero goals, and there’s no way that we can get to net-zero without nuclear energy. To me, getting to net-zero is about leveraging all types of clean energy generation to meet these decarbonization goals, and that includes nuclear.
What advice can you offer to women looking to pursue a career in the nuclear industry?
The nuclear industry is innovative, dynamic, and exciting, and there are opportunities in almost everything to do with nuclear. This industry needs all voices — it needs diversity and women in order to leverage what diversity truly means to a business. I would really like women to know that there are a lot of growth opportunities and different career opportunities in this industry, and that if they apply themselves, the sky is the limit.
Aside from the benefits of clean energy, how is Canada’s nuclear industry making a major contribution to our economy and society?
In Canada, we have the full fuel cycle — everything from mining to nuclear energy to research and development in waste and decommissioning. If we look at the full value proposition of nuclear, we employ more than 76,000 people in this industry. We make a major contribution to the economy — our impact is $17 billion a year to the Canadian GDP from the nuclear energy industry. Not to mention the valuable contribution from medical isotope production, which saves lives every single day.
What actions should Canada focus on to increase diversity in the nuclear energy industry?
We need to focus on highlighting the opportunities in STEM and the role of nuclear energy for young women within the education system. If we look at the talent pipeline, we need to start much earlier, and we need more women interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and nuclear. We need to encourage more women in engineering and similar disciplines so that the labour market availability supports gender parity. We don’t have enough women in STEM and nuclear-related professions to really have the balance we need.
From an industry perspective, we need to think about how to make sure that we represent a diverse industry so role models are visible and the future workforce so everyone can imagine themselves in these roles. As an industry, we need to make sure that we reflect the opportunities that exist for all voices at the table.
How is Women in Nuclear Canada promoting career interest in nuclear-related professions, especially among women and young people?
We profile the role that women have in the industry, which relates to my earlier comments on role models. Women in Nuclear Canada is revamping and relaunching our Speakers’ Clearinghouse, which is an opportunity for our members to speak within the education system at schools and at conferences, to profile the role women play and the opportunities that exist. We work with other organizations (including Skills Canada and Skills Ontario) to promote interest. It’s not just STEM — it’s skilled trades as well. There are lots of professional opportunities in the industry.
We also have an education outreach program that’s currently being restructured so that we will be ready to launch in 2022. This will provide the opportunity to educate students on the role of nuclear energy in the energy transition and reflect opportunities for women in nuclear.