Many countries are moving forward with their nuclear power programmes and, in these countries, more and more women are taking on key leadership roles in developing the national nuclear agenda.
Hanna Trojanowska of Poland and Monira Al Kuttab from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) are just two of the women making a difference in nuclear power programmes in their countries. While both have followed different paths to get to where they are today, they share similar experiences and views on how nuclear power can be beneficial for their countries.
Hanna Trojanowska is Government Commissioner for Nuclear Energy and Undersecretary of State in the Polish Ministry of Economy. Ms. Trojanowska has worked for many years in the Polish power industry and was given the responsibility for leading the Government's efforts to develop the nuclear power sector as Commissioner for Nuclear Energy in Poland, when the government put the nuclear option back on the national agenda.
Monira Al Kuttab is Director of Government Communications in the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) of the United Arab Emirates. She was working in the country's oil and gas sector when the UAE decided to start a nuclear power programme. Ms. Al Kuttab was recruited to lead the national regulator's Government Communications Department, an important position in supporting the leadership's commitment to ensuring the safety of the nation's first nuclear power plant.
What inspired both Hanna Trojanowska and Monira Al Kuttab to get involved in nuclear matters?
Ms. Trojanowska's experiences strengthened her conviction that "the security of electricity supply is an omnipresent and timeless problem, involving broader issues that go beyond the technical aspects. In addition, today's era of climate change awareness and the need to ensure electricity supply at rational costs make the decision regarding long-term investment more complex."
Ms. Al Kuttab was intrigued by the challenges and opportunities presented by managing the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation's governmental affairs.
"I knew it would be exciting because my work would be mandated by the UAE leadership's vision, something I am a devout believer of. It meant having the responsibility to execute that vision into reality through transparency, communication, engagement and trust building," she says.
Nuclear Power In Support of National Development
Many of the drivers that lead many countries to pursue a nuclear programme are reflected in Ms. Trojanowska's motivations.
"Internalization of numerous external costs of electricity production in nuclear power plants offers the promise of a stabilization of electricity generation prices over the longer term. So, nuclear will influence the development of the domestic economy by saving organic fossil fuels for future generations."
"The prospect of greater participation of the Polish industry in the development of the nuclear power sector, together with supporting services should give a boost to the regional economies," she said.
Similarly, according to Ms. Al Kuttab, the nuclear energy option is one of the opportunities that will contribute to and enhance the diversification in the energy sector in the United Arab Emirates.
"Overall, nuclear power generation would reduce the Emirates' carbon footprint, meet sustainability requirements and provide a high level of secure energy," she added.
Countries embarking on a nuclear power programme are also confronted with similar challenges. Ms. Trojanowska believes that "developing the civil nuclear power sector should be considered the greatest challenge in the history of the Polish energy market and the post war economy, as well as a long-term process."
"Without the assistance of international organizations such as the IAEA, the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency and bilateral cooperation with countries possessing an advanced nuclear industry, such a challenge would be simply undoable or unmanageable," states Ms. Trojanowska.
She believes that "consultation and cooperation with these organizations will optimize the whole process and lower the development costs wherever possible and justified."
Ms. Al Kuttab's work at FANRN, which entails initiating and sustaining a large number of stakeholders in dialogue, both at a national and international level, including cooperation with other experienced regulatory bodies, supports this challenge.
On an equally important note, all sectors of the global nuclear enterprise now recognize the challenges of meeting the crucial human resource demands. This is confirmed by Ms. Al Kuttab's commitment to the development of her country's "most vital resource" - human capital. "I believe that mentorship and coaching, as well as providing the opportunities for contribution, will help pave the way for our nationals enabling them to make their own contribution to our country's development."
Role of Women
Ms. Trojanowska believes that the nuclear industry should take advantage of the valuable contributions that female science professionals can make to the nuclear sector.
"The presence of women will be significant in nuclear industry's future," she said.
Highlighting the legacy of the famous Polish scientist and two-time Nobel Prize winner Maria Skłodowska-Curie, Ms. Trojanowska says that "we are obliged to promote the involvement of women in science."
For her part, Ms. Al Kuttab is driven by the vision of the late president of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who once stated, "Nothing could delight me more than to see the woman taking up her distinctive position in society... nothing should hinder her progress. Like men, women deserve the right to occupy high positions according to their capabilities and qualifications."
These words have been her personal mantra since the early stages of her career path.