Strong leadership in the nuclear sector will be crucial to its success to help meet net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The NEA held its fourth edition of the NEA Leadership Series at the United Arab Emirates’ Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) headquarters on November 14.
NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV sat down with Managing Director and CEO of the Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation (ENEC), Mohamed Al Hammadi, and FANR Director-General Christer Viktorsson, to ask them about what has shaped their leadership styles, what creates effective leadership, its importance in nuclear safety culture, and what leadership means to the next generation.
The UAE has gained experience over the past decade in what is required for effective leadership in the nuclear sector with the construction of the UAE’s first nuclear power plant, the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi. Mr Al Hammadi and Mr Viktorsson drew on the lessons that they have learned throughout this period on how to approach stakeholder engagement, endorse safety culture and promote excellence in staff performance through effective leadership.
NEA Director-General Magwood moderating the discussion between the two UAE nuclear leaders, ENEC Managing Director and CEO, Mohammed Al Hammadi (left) and FANR Director-General Christer Viktorsson (right).
“How does your organisation encourage safety culture?”
Mr Al Hammadi discussed how UAE culture strives for excellency, which has been a defining factor in developing a rigorous and high-level safety culture. He emphasised that their experience of working with such a high number of international workers creates an open mindedness in their approach to how they work and how all of the different aspects of safety culture come together. Director-General Viktorsson agreed that as a foreign national in the UAE nuclear sector (originally coming from Finland) that he has experienced the UAE’s culture of high expectations and performance, which goes hand-in-hand with his role leading the national nuclear regulator.
ENEC Managing Director and CEO, Mohammed Al Hammadi, discussing the importance of clear communication for effective leadership.
“How do you promote openness and communication in the workplace with so many different cultures, and across generations?
FANR Director-General Viktorsson said that communicating expectations is essential to good leadership which drives results. Additionally, harnessing the strength of the next generation requires a specific approach. He feels that a communication approach which is built on trust and confidence, allows them to rise to the occasion.
“If you give responsibility to young people without micro management, they grow,” said the FANR Director-General.
Mr Al Hammadi noted that with workers from over 60 nationalities working at Barakah nuclear power plant and almost 200 nationalities of workers in the UAE, communication is key to their success. This also extends beyond the nuclear power plant to the public.
“The communication has to be two ways and engaging the public essential,” said Mr Al Hammadi.
Engaging with the public and informing them about the role of the Barakah nuclear power plant has been key to the UAE’s initial success. Mr Al Hammadi emphasised that it has been their responsibility to engage with the public, to explain what they are doing and how they implement safety standards on the reactors. As a result, this has led to a high level in public support and confidence.
“In the UAE, people are very proud to be part of the nuclear programme today. This comes from the fact that they are doing something to improve the climate; building power plants which have almost zero CO2 emissions and contributing the energy security of their nation.”
FANR Director-General Christer Viktorsson discussing why the UAE’s culture of striving for excellency aligns well with nuclear safety culture.
Human capacity and gender balance
“What is your assessment on the participation of women in the sector and what is the plan for ensuring human capacity over the next 60 years?”
The three nuclear leaders discussed the need to grow and strengthen the sector’s workforce in the coming years to ensure that there are enough trained technical staff to meet the demand of nuclear energy goals. This includes attracting, retaining and advancing more women into the sector.
With twenty-one percent of the workforce at Barakah nuclear power plant are women (closely reflecting global sector’s make up) the ENEC CEO noted it has been challenging and a continued area of focus for him and ENEC. considered part of the journey.
“It has been complex and it took a lot of effort from our leadership team to break the stereotype and break the culture barrier in the UAE. The first women that came to Barakah eventually ended up leaving after six months. So we went to interview them and their families to ask what was wrong and what would make them stay. We took those responses and the actions required to make the changes seriously,” explained Mr Al Hammadi.
The ENEC CEO noted that they have the leadership development programme at the Barakah nuclear power plant to train future leaders in the nuclear sector, as well as an active Women in Nuclear chapter, to amplify their efforts to attract more women into the sector.
Audience members posing questions during the NEA Leadership Series.
FANR Director-General Christer Viktorsson noted that forty-four percent of the staff at FANR are women and that their recruitment base is mainly from universities. At the UAE University, there are more women than men currently enrolled in the STEM courses, which both of the leaders see as a positive sign for the future of the UAE’s nuclear sector. During a tour of the FANR Emergency Unit and demonstration of the VR & Remote Inspection technologies, the NEA delegation had a chance to meet a number of the women who were working in the UAE’s nuclear sector, and responsible for these essential safety operating systems.
The NEA delegation visiting FANR’s Emergency Response Centre in Abu Dhabi with FANR Director-General Viktorsson.
Audience members, including both high-level UAE executives and local FANR staff, had the opportunity to pose questions to the three nuclear leaders to round out the session. The NEA Leadership Series is one of the Agency’s activities to highlight the importance of strong, effective leadership in the sector, to help its member countries progress with nuclear energy programmes which will help countries around the world to meet their climate and energy security goals.