Women in the nuclear sector – Meet some of the women at the CNSC Laboratory

Women in Nuclear

Members from Women in Nuclear (WiN) visiting the CNSC laboratory in October.

Women in Nuclear (WiN) is a dynamic, not-for-profit organization that uplifts women in the nuclear sector by creating opportunities for mentoring, networking, and personal development initiatives. The Canadian chapter, WiN Canada, has over 1,700 members and six local chapters across the country.

From October 22 to October 24, over 150 participants, mainly women, from 30 companies and organizations across Canada, came together in Ottawa to take part in the 14th Annual WiN Canada Conference. The conference was a three-day event with the theme of "nYOUclear – how developing yourself can contribute to the industry"; it featured inspirational presentations and panel discussions by leaders in the nuclear sector, and various break-out session workshops. Most importantly, the WiN Conference was an opportunity for women in nuclear and radiation-related industries from all over Canada to connect.

Participants reflected positively upon the conference, pleased with the unique opportunity to network with, and learn from, other women in the nuclear sector, and invigorated by the infectious optimism, commitment and energy from the other participants. Many participants said that they looked forward to putting the lessons learned from the technical and professional development sessions to good use back on the job.

On Tuesday, October 24, 2017, conference participants chose one of three tour options: Chalk River Laboratories, the Canada Science and Technology Museum, or the CNSC Laboratory. The Laboratory hosted two interactive tours for over 40 WiN members. Laboratory specialists guided the participants through the different areas of the facility and explained the sophisticated equipment involved in the facility’s compliance verification activities.

About the Laboratory

The CNSC Laboratory, located on Limebank Road, is on the leading edge of Canada’s nuclear safety services. Furnished with state-of-the-art equipment and overseen by highly experienced scientists and staff, the Laboratory has just celebrated the first anniversary of its ISO 17025 accreditation, a formal recognition of the Laboratory’s capability.

Tour participants learned about the Laboratory’s key role in supporting the CNSC’s ongoing compliance verification program. To ensure the continuous assessment of licensees’ safety performance, Laboratory staff verify licensee compliance in regard to radiation protection, environmental protection, safeguards, and emergency preparedness. The Laboratory’s two main service lines are sample analysis and instrument calibration.

The Laboratory analyzes samples for two programs: inspection sampling and the CNSC’s Independent Environmental Monitoring Program (IEMP). The IEMP is a planned sampling initiative by the CNSC designed to verify that public health and the environment around licensed nuclear facilities are protected. Licensees are required to implement their own environmental protection programs; their monitoring results are regularly submitted to the CNSC, and occasionally they will sample side-by-side with CNSC field technologists for the IEMP. The local municipality and Indigenous groups are notified of IEMP sampling in advance and are encouraged to suggest locations where samples could be taken.

The instrument calibration service line consists of the scheduled maintenance of all radiation measurement instruments to confirm that a unit is operating properly. Instrument calibrations are performed annually at a minimum, and an instrument typically receives a full calibration following any kind of repair service.

Spotlight: Women in the Laboratory

One of the Laboratory specialists hosting the tour was Nadereh St-Amant, a senior analyst who has worked with the CNSC since 2011. She discussed her satisfaction with the work she performs and the sophisticated equipment she gets to work with. WiN members listened intently, eager to learn from a woman in the nuclear field like them.

Nadereh credits her father, a medical doctor, for fostering her love of math and science from a young age. Motivated by this, and by educational and professional challenges, Nadereh is a prime example of how women can thrive in the nuclear sector. She believes that encouraging women to pursue sciences means seeing the potential in everybody, from their earliest years: "This starts with helping children at home to improve their math and science skills, and supporting their career choices, regardless of their gender, so that they may choose to become future scientists."

The CNSC Laboratory could not conduct sampling without its field technologist, Kate Peters, who is responsible for collecting samples for the IEMP and occasionally for assisting inspectors with compliance verification sampling. Kate started working at the CNSC as a student, trying her hand at a few different jobs before choosing to remain in her current position. Although Kate works in a predominantly male field, the science landscape is changing; she says she has encountered plenty of women working in the sciences and expects that the statistics will continue to shift.

The increasing number of women in the nuclear sector, and the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in general, was apparent at the WiN Conference this year as women from all over Canada came together to lift and unite their voices. From a hitherto male-dominated sector, a sea of motivated, determined women emerged. The overall feeling after the Laboratory tour and the WiN Conference was one of empowerment – a renewed sentiment that women have a place and a voice in the nuclear sector.

To learn more about the pacesetting women working in Canada’s nuclear sector, check out WiN Canada’s members.

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