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Maria Kolodnytska

Supply Chain Inspection Manager


December 16, 2022

Ep 373: Maria Kolodnytska - Supply Chain Inspection Manager, EDF (UK)
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Bret Kugelmass [00:02:09] We're here today with Maria Kolodnytska, who's the Supply Chain Inspection Manager for EDF in the UK. Maria, thank you so much for joining me today.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:02:17] Thank you for having me, Bret. It's a pleasure to be here.

Bret Kugelmass [00:02:19] Yeah. Now, I know that you met up with one of our colleagues and came highly recommended, and so I'm just super excited to chat about what you do. But before we get there, let's just learn about you as a person. Tell us, where did you grow up?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:02:31] Well, I was actually born in the north of Ukraine, and part of the area was contaminated by outfall from Chernobyl. So in some ways, I learned about nuclear from a very early age. And because my family is quite academical, we used to have this like encyclopedia about nuclear and sort of lessons learned from Chernobyl. Which, because I'm quite a keen reader, I read everything. So that was just one of the things I sort of read.

Bret Kugelmass [00:03:07] Drove you straight into the industry. Yeah.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:03:09] Well, that's it. You know, it was kind of the eighties and there was no Internet...

Bret Kugelmass [00:03:14] How old were you at the time when Chernobyl happened?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:03:16] I was two.

Bret Kugelmass [00:03:18] So, yeah, you're in the target range of when people... Or people who were quite concerned. Can I ask what did your parents do at that time? What was their professions?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:03:27] Yes. So, they're both engineers, which is why you can imagine that the conversations we've kind of been having at the table were quite... sort of different. And also because they're both engineers, we kept meeting maybe people that were not quite sort of common for people to meet. So we actually ended up talking to this really brilliant guy on, actually right around a holiday, and he ended up being one of the designers for sarcophagus for Chernobyl. So again, you know, you were just surrounded by that. And also where we grew up, we had another neighbor who happened to be a firefighter. So I just learned about that really from really early on.

Bret Kugelmass [00:04:08] And I'm going to ask you a few more stories from your childhood, but just to like put it all in context, when did you leave the country and are your parents still there or did they leave as well?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:04:17] So I left in 2005. So that's what now? 17 years ago because I did my first degree in Ukraine and then I moved to do my master's.

Bret Kugelmass [00:04:30] But you don't have any of the accent!

Maria Kolodnytska [00:04:32] I do. I do. But I think, you know, it's been a while and I've been sort of trying to fit in. I've been trying to get rid of my accent.

Bret Kugelmass [00:04:43] But yeah, because I mean, you were there for like 20 years. It's hard to shed an accent. That's incredible. But you could probably turn it back on when you go back home.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:04:53] Well, perhaps, perhaps. I think my husband likes to say that when we're in Ukraine, because he's English, so he doesn't speak any Ukrainian. Well, he speaks ten words. The important words like, you know, names of fruit and small animals, but not to properly have a conversation. So he says that the way I speak sort of changes when I'm there. So, perhaps you're right, my accent would be stronger.

Bret Kugelmass [00:05:20] Okay. So I'm going to, if you don't mind, can I ask a few more questions about the culture around Chernobyl and Ukraine at that time?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:05:28] Of course, yeah.

Bret Kugelmass [00:05:31] Okay. So like when you were five or six, let's say ages five through ten, what were you told about it? And were you still in that same area or had people moved around after that?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:05:43] So, I was still in the same area because basically I grew up in a county town, perhaps is the easiest way to describe that. So the north of the county was contaminated to the level that people couldn't live there anymore. So they had to be effectively removed because it wasn't safe for them. But the town itself was absolutely fine, but because I was a child... So it was seen to be as kind of high risk. Then, we were all given like little radiation passports. So, you kind of became a radiation worker at a very young age. So, sometimes I like to joke that I've joined the industry 40 years ago, but they only paid me for 16 years out of that.

Bret Kugelmass [00:06:27] Just so I understand this radiation passport concept... This is to prevent movement of people into radiological contaminated areas... you have to have your reason?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:06:36] Not quite, they're two different things. So the first one is... Depending which area you lived at the time when the accident happened, you could either stay where you were or you were given an option to move. They were given free accommodation.

Bret Kugelmass [00:06:53] Oh, this passport was to leave!

Maria Kolodnytska [00:06:56] No, no, no. Sorry. I think I'm probably not explaining that. So, the little passport was to tell you what was the dose that you received. So it was like...

Bret Kugelmass [00:07:05] Oh, it's like a medical... like a medical card.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:07:07] A medical passport. That's right. So it's not like a passport to move.

Bret Kugelmass [00:07:12] It's not about restricting transfer. Okay. Yeah.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:07:12] That's right. Yeah. But separate to that, based on the area where people lived, then you could either stay there or were forced to move or had an option to move. So I was in an area where I was safe to stay, but because I was a baby or a toddler, then I was given this radiation passport as a kind of medical you know, "You received a dose of radiation," which at the time I found brilliantly exciting because it felt really special.

Bret Kugelmass [00:07:40] Well, actually. Oh, man, that is super interesting. Like, that is worth like, man, I wish we could like talk to a whole bunch of people like you with some like trained professionals about psychology to actually inform radiation communication in today's day and age and like how we present that to people. Because I think whatever we're doing right now makes it scarier than it is, in my opinion. And there are very exciting things about radiation, because radiation isn't just hazard, like radiation is like a form of energy transfer. I mean, like you go out and you bask in the sun. That's radiation, too, obviously, you know, there's ionizing, non-ionizing, I get it. But it's like there is some level I mean, you use the word special, which is just so awesome that as a child, that's how you thought of something that everyone else thought was hazardous. And so I'm just... There's just a nugget in there that I wish we could explore, but maybe for a different conversation.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:08:39] Sorry, that was a bit of a tangent. Do you remember what the dose was?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:08:45] Well, rather unhelpfully it was in different dose units. So obviously in the UK and Western world we deal more with sort of Becquerels... But in the sort of what was Soviet Union, it was more Curies... and so it just wouldn't quite help to explain it. But one thing that I could tell you was that when I converted it because I was curious, you know, when I grew up and was like, "Oh, I wonder what it was like." So through my entire entire time working in the industry, I got virtually nothing compared to what I got as a little toddler. And even that wasn't actually quite that exciting in the grand scheme of things. And I'll tell you another little anecdote, if I may. So... I did my first degree in environmental engineering back in Ukraine. And because, you know, we looked at all of the environmental subjects and environmental concerns in the areas we studied, things like radiation protection, which was entirely normal. So then it was also entirely normal for me to do a bachelor's dissertation into distribution of cesium in forest ecosystems. And when I went to collect for a sample, so things like, you know, cranberries and mushrooms and bark and soil and cones and lots of other bits of forest and then sort of analyzed in the lab, you know, how much did accumulate cesium, strong radionuclides. And some of the mushrooms that we were picking as part of the research, by the standards of of UK would be classed as low level waste. So, formally rejected waste. And what was really telling, because this is just like painting the picture. So the forest in the north of Ukraine is this beautiful, sort of primeval forest, there are no people for miles because it's a very, very sort of isolated, quite fairy-like it's quite magical. And we had a forest guide to sort of help us to find the right parts of the forest, because you could get lost quite easily. And as we were heading back and I was with with my supervisor, the local guides just gave us this kind of bunch of mushrooms, say, "Oh, look, you know, there you go, guys. I've got some mushrooms for you. Why don't you fry them or make a soup?" And my supervisor and I were like... [laughing, shaking head.]

Bret Kugelmass [00:11:35] Yeah, but... I know it's funny. But on the other hand, in reality, it's like the regulatory limits are probably orders of magnitude lower than they need to be. You know, it probably would have been fine. I guess I'm wondering like how they calculated that initial dose for you. Like it's not like they took biological samples from you, right? So they were probably doing estimations based on like surface level contamination that they picked up doing some survey after the fact?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:12:02] I think... I don't think it was quite as precise as that. So I think what they looked at was, you know, at typical age of the time, what would be your diet? So are you still on milk or are you on solids? What was the typical time you spend outside? Because, you know, it wasn't just me being really special, having those little radiation passports, there were lots of children of similar age who would have them. So I doubt very much. But, you know, I don't know because I was a toddler that they sort of actually took physical samples to kind of do it properly. I think it was moren a prediction and an estimation rather than a sort of specific calculation.

Bret Kugelmass [00:12:45] And did they do increased checkups on, let's say, like your thyroid throughout your upbringing?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:12:52] Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass [00:12:52] Do you like.. Like how is that conducted? Did the state send people around and do like you remember that experience? You just go to the doctor and tell them, "Hey, like..."

Maria Kolodnytska [00:13:02] You're going very far back and quite deep! I think from memory, it was as simple as, you know, when you are at school, you just get sort of a checkup in the same ways you get your like vaccinations done through school, so there will be like a person up and say, you know, "Today, we are looking at everybody's thyroids! How do you feel?" So it was... To me that was quite normal. You know, when you're asking the question, it sounds like a little bit weird, but it was quite normal.

Bret Kugelmass [00:13:28] One of the things I'm like very personally interested in specifically with respect to the incidence of cancer as a result of Chernobyl, is the screening effect. And it seems to me that all of the statistical models that we have today ignore the screening effect. And so what I would love to understand and you probably don't have this information, but I'm just kind of like telling you what I'm curious about is was there a differential amount of thyroid inspection in different areas? Or was it... was there like a control group where, you know, they screened a population that they knew wasn't contaminated so they could account for that screening effect because you know what they say about cancer. When you look for cancer, you find cancer.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:14:17] I think that's a good point. I would imagine that probably whole... You know, if not research universities, but certainly very dedicated professors who would have looked at elements of that who would give you a much better educated answer. I think I can only talk from some of my personal experience through the lens of, you know, childhood, which in some ways would be spot on and accurate in other ways would have, you know, the rose tinted spectacles or the other way around.

Bret Kugelmass [00:14:47] Yeah, yeah, yeah. After 500 podcasts, I'm still tracking down the answers. But no, but I can't tell you how much I appreciate hearing your experience. Actually, the human stories is one of the best parts of doing this podcast in general. Okay, so you went on to be an environmental engineer and walk me through that then, you know, what would your career look like moving forward?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:15:12] Yeah. So, basically after graduating as an environmental engineer, then it so happens that all of my family have sort of moved abroad. So my sister moved to UK, my parents lived in Denmark and then eventually moved to UK, kind of for economical reasons. And then the rest of them were also putting pressure on me in terms of, "Don't you think it would be a good idea for you to do your master's elsewhere?" For example, Europe, for example, UK. So I ended up doing a master's in UK on employment management and it was quite interesting sort of coming from a deeply technical engineering academical family. But that was the first time when I sort of did a course that had no equations and no graphs, and I was like, "I'm studying something which is all about, you know, reasoned arguments and conversations with people." You can't actually measure any of that. So that's quite interesting. But my master's was in climate change, which felt really relevant at the time. And obviously now...

Bret Kugelmass [00:16:19] What year was that again?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:16:23] Yeah, so that was 2005.

Bret Kugelmass [00:16:25] And they're already talking about climate change then.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:16:27] Well, so I was really lucky because I studied in Oxford, as a city, Brookes University, not the main and exciting, historic one, but because it was based in Oxford and there was quite a lot of really early kind of climate scientists in the area because it's, you know, it's a very academic, very clever sort of city. And I happened to have an embassy supervisor who was one of the sort of pioneering experts at the time. And well... And I was looking into how well the UK sort of regional authorities were getting ready for adapting to climate change causes... and weren't really getting ready at that point in time.

Bret Kugelmass [00:17:15] I was going to say who even cared in 2005?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:17:18] Well, let's see, Bret, I think there were very few people who even cared you know, there were still some people who didn't even believe in it. It was quite different times, really.

Bret Kugelmass [00:17:27] Can I ask, did you notice a market change as to when it became like a political issue? Because like when you first got started, nobody cared. It probably wasn't political. Do you remember when it became political?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:17:38] So I think it's probably more like ten years ago kind of became mainstream. And obviously now it's recognized as a, you know, the evidence is there. So there is a very, very, very small number of people who no longer believe in man-made climate change. There are some exceptions but...

Bret Kugelmass [00:17:56] In the US... I think it's like 50% of people still. But it's more of a feeling. It's not like people arguing on the scientific merits, it's just more like I don't want people telling me what to do. So here's my belief. I think.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:18:09] So it was different that point. But I think what was kind of interesting about doing that course, when I later told people that I got a job in nuclear, they kind of all like looked at me like, "Why nuclear?" And I'm like, "Why not?" And so for most of them, it would have never even occurred for them to do nuclear as a career full stop, let alone do nuclear as a career for somebody who cares about environment. But for me, that felt entirely natural. And I think maybe what was sort of helped is when I did my job interview with a company called Magnox, which in UK is a fast generator, so it's both a reactor type and a company that used to sort of design, build and operate that reactor type. So when I kind of went to my job interview and I just remember going through this like really sixties looking building and it was just like steel and concrete everywhere, you know, massive pipes. And I walked into a room and there was room full of engineers who asked me sort of technical questions. And I remember for the first time and that was a year since I sort of moved countries, I felt like, "You know what? I could probably live here." Because I felt like I belonged.

Bret Kugelmass [00:19:30] That's really cool. Yeah. Yeah. An engineer at home. Yeah, that's awesome. So tell me about that job. What like, what were you getting into? What were your responsibilities? And then I also want to hear a little bit about Magnox in general. Just like as a technology and, you know, history of it, if you have just any thoughts to share there too.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:19:53] Yes. So magnox as a company. So that was the first generation of gas cooled reactors. And it stands for Magnox, not oxidizing alloy, which I think most people probably know. So at the time it had ten nuclear power stations. So all of them have the same reactor type. But because they were being constructed at slightly different timescales, they're all a little bit different. So I joined as a graduate into engineering team. And for me, that was just a way to learn the trade, learn more about the industry. And, what was interesting about that, of the team I joined... So, most people in the team there were at least double my age and some of them are triple my age, which was fascinating.

Bret Kugelmass [00:20:47] That's the nuclear industry for you. It comes in waves.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:20:51] Well, certainly. And when I kind of tell people that nobody even is surprised by that fact and there was an additional dimension where there was a very small number of women in the department, especially sort of technical, especially senior women. And I was very lucky to have... Actually my first line manager was a woman, which I didn't realize just how lucky I was until much later on. And then I had this, you know, additional dimension of being somebody who, as English as not my first language, it's actually my third language. And so it was kind of a very interesting environment to be immersed into. But everybody was really lovely to me and really helped me to kind of learn and develop and grow and all that. Although, the eight years that followed, then I did a number of technical jobs, so it was different specialism in environment, picked up product to waste, also decommission strategy. And eventually I progressed all the way to being head of environment at Berkeley site, which is one of the power stations that was being decommissioned. And maybe the interesting thing about Berkeley is that it's... It was the very first fully commercial nuclear power station in the UK.

Bret Kugelmass [00:22:10] Cool. Cool. So, when you joined the industry, what was the... Were they done building at that point? Was like the Magnox technology only on its way down and everyone knew it?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:22:24] Yes, so...

Bret Kugelmass [00:22:24] What was the reason articulated for why the UK would be switching to light water reactors when it had the history in the gas cooled reactors?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:22:33] So at the time I was joining, the industry was very much in decline, I would say. So the Magnox reactors were some of them already started to be decommissioned, others were on the last years of generation... And those of the second generation we have advanced gas reactors, so AGRs. So those were all operating at the time.

Bret Kugelmass [00:22:59] And sorry, what was the difference between the first and second generation? Technically.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:23:03] I think I'm probably not the right person to answer that, because I would not give you a good answer, I think. I think it was more of a evolution rather than revolution. Because what I do know is that from the last of the Magnox sites and the first of the HGR sites for a bit, you could exchange spares for particular bits of the equipment. So I think it's you know, it was kind of an ongoing development where the last of the Magnox or the... AGRs was a step change, but not quite the huge step change between those.

Bret Kugelmass [00:23:38] Got it. Got it. That's very interesting. And then... And so decommissioning was a big focus at that point?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:23:46] Yes.

Bret Kugelmass [00:23:46] So what are the decommissioning characteristics of these facilities like... Is there... Can you give us just like a mental framework to how we should think about decommissioning?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:23:58] So decommissioning is a... It has two parts. The first one is about dealing with waste, so making sure that radioactive waste is retrieved, processed and stored appropriately. And then the second bit is demolition, really. So it's more conventional demolition in places, slightly more tricky in others. And then that's kind of it. But, you know, on the face of it, it's not that complex.

Bret Kugelmass [00:24:28] And then on that first part, it's then broken up into three pieces high level, intermediate, low level waste?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:24:34] That's correct.

Bret Kugelmass [00:24:35] Where does it go in the UK? Where does it go?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:24:38] Well, there is also a good question. So for UK, we have a low level waste repository and that has existed for decades and is a pretty known route for waste. So intermediate level waste and high level waste currently do not have a repository in the UK. So there is a repository plant which is going to be a deep geological disposal facility. But it's... They're currently at the sort of planning, finding the right sites and designing because it's going to be quite a large and complex facility when it comes around.

Bret Kugelmass [00:25:18] And can you give me an example of what might be intermediate level waste and what do they physically do with it when they are tearing down the building if they don't have a repository for it?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:25:28] Yeah. So for intermediate level waste, you have some things are quite simple, you know, like filters when you have your... The use of capturing the radioactivity in your system, you have filters that obviously capture it because they are accumulating it all. So then they become radioactive waste. So in Magnox, we have some bits of kind of fuel elements that are like little metal fins that got cut off before fuel was sent for reprocessing. So they also become intermediate level waste. Then you have like resins. So it's largely to do with kind of water treatment cycles and bit of a fuel pre-processing waste and other like miscellaneous stuff, they got activated or contaminated.

Bret Kugelmass [00:26:23] Like primary pipes or something like that.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:26:26] Well because basically for Magnox the strategy...

Bret Kugelmass [00:26:33] Oh, sorry, I was thinking water-based...

Maria Kolodnytska [00:26:38] Because the main sort of strategy for Magnox is that you deal with a waste that's not in the best position currently being stored, but you do not deal with primary circuit decommission at that stage. So you leave it in a safe store for that... For the, you know, your primary pipes, as you're saying, to decay. Because from a radionuclide perspective, the biggest fingerprint is Cobalt-60.

Bret Kugelmass [00:27:07] Which has a half life of what?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:27:08] Of I think it's five years, if memory serves me right.

Bret Kugelmass [00:27:10] So how long do you let it sit?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:27:13] So you let it sit for a long time. So it could be as long as 80 years.

Bret Kugelmass [00:27:17] How long?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:27:17] 80 years.

Bret Kugelmass [00:27:20] 80. Okay. So the intended plan for these facilities is to let the Cobalt-60 contaminated areas just be in place for 80 years before they disassemble and put it on trucks and move it somewhere.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:27:34] Yes.

Bret Kugelmass [00:27:35] And sorry, just once again, for the intermediate level waste that is easy to grab and move and has a maybe a shorter half life like the resins or whatever. What do they physically do with that, like right now?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:27:48] Well, I think it's been obviously a while since I've worked in...

Bret Kugelmass [00:27:53] Not right now. When you were doing it, what did they physically do with it? Did they just put it in a bucket somewhere on site? Or did they put it in a bucket on someone else's site or...

Maria Kolodnytska [00:28:03] So it would be retrieved from its current location process, which would be either encapsulation or storage and then put it in a purpose built, radioactive waste storage facility. Because I think, you know, and I'll say this one last point and then perhaps we can move on. So, when Magnox reactors were built, they were considered to be infrastructure in the same way as now. You wouldn't think of decommissioning a motorway. Like it just wasn't a thought at that point. So people have operated and put waste sort of underground without really planning to retrieve it because that was not the thinking at the time. But since that, there has been a substantial change in waste strategy. And I'm sure that even in the last eight years of Magnox, they probably moved on to different thinking as well. So it wouldn't be right for me to go into too much of that knowledge.

Bret Kugelmass [00:29:05] That's fine. I'm not trying to like play gotcha with anyone. I'm just curious about how different strategies are employed in different countries around the world. Because like, I'm always just looking for whatever the most reasonable thing someone does somewhere in the world. Like let's just apply that to other places and not like try to get too clever with our solutions, which I feel like in the nuclear industry we do a lot... We like making hard engineering problems for ourselves. Okay, so Horizon Nuclear Power. Tell me about that.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:29:35] Yes. So after I... spent obviously a number of years at Magnox, just as I was sort of progressing with my Head of Environment role, new build became a thing. So there was a change in the government policy and there was this excitement and buzz about, "Oh, we might actually build some new ones." And I thought, "Well, that would be fun. So I got attracted by the shiny lights of new build and moved across... First, I led an environmental team in Horizon that was growing. And then I moved to Lead Project Engineering team and what was kind of interesting about that was that I got to look at totality of design for concern, so we needed to get a number of permissions. And it was also I like to think of it as a kind of like it's like a helicopter view. So I wasn't responsible for my team, I wasn't responsible for one design to kind of observe detail. It was just more, does it all fit together in a way that we could communicate to both government and our local regulatory bodies, as well as national regulatory bodies, and also to our local community? What is it we're actually trying to build and why?

Bret Kugelmass [00:30:58] Yep. And what was it you were trying to build and where?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:31:02] Yeah, so we were trying to build an ABWR and we were planning to build it in a place called Anglesey...

Bret Kugelmass [00:31:15] That's an island off of Wales, right?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:31:17] That's correct, yes.

Bret Kugelmass [00:31:18] I've been out there... I've been out there, yeah.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:31:20] Have you?

Bret Kugelmass [00:31:21] Yeah, we took two little bridges to get out there.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:31:23] Oh, amazing...

Bret Kugelmass [00:31:26] Is Bangor University over there?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:31:30] So Bangor is technically not in Anglesey, just across the bridge.

Bret Kugelmass [00:31:33] I went across also... I crossed one of those bridges.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:31:40] So amazing.

Bret Kugelmass [00:31:41] So then, yeah, I mean, that whole part of the country is beautiful... that whole part of the world is beautiful. I just love that whole setting. And it's just, you know, I took a train through North Wales and enjoyed every minute of it.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:31:55] It's a beautiful, beautiful country and beautiful part of the country. It also has a sort of like microclimate as well, which is quite unique. It's yeah, it's brilliant. But that as you know, as you probably know, Horizon didn't get the funding. So there is no power station being built currently... I'm privately hoping that, you know, one day maybe somebody else will build one because it is the best site...

Bret Kugelmass [00:32:21] I think there's a lot of interest right now. I just think that, oh, man, it's like any of these giant construction projects are going to be a nightmare from like a logistical perspective. And I know that that site is just so attractive for a lot of reasons, including like, you know, the water cooling and where it is. But I heard they're going to have to like build a new port just to like ship in some of the components. I'm not sure if that's still the plan for these new projects, but I mean, it's just like any major infrastructure that requires other major infrastructure. Man, that is a nightmare. And, you know, that's why I wish the industry would try to find a way to do these projects... And I love gigawatt scale projects and we build a ton of them. I just wish they figured out a way to do it in like a more of like a lightweight way, like we used to. But maybe those are more like half gigawatt ones. Anyway. Okay. And then what came next for you?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:33:20] Yes. So, then obviously after Horizon closed down, I thought I would quite like to a build power station, there was kind of, you know, a power station shaped hole in my life. And there was only one of them going, which, you know, Hinkley Point C. So that was a very easy choice for me. And so I joined EDF to build Hinkley Point C, and I've been with it there for coming up to four years. And over the course of that, I've done a range of governance roles and also some transformational projects as well. So now I am part of an internal nuclear regulator and I look after supply chain inspection.

Bret Kugelmass [00:34:04] What does that mean, internal nuclear regular? I haven't actually heard that term.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:34:07] Yes. So this is... I'm not sure it's quite unique to UK, but it is not necessarily common across all operators. So, you know, like how you've got your external regulator. So like an environmental protection agency or somebody like that. So we've got those two. Obviously we have Office for Nuclear Regulation and we have environmental agency and others. So they're external regulator. What's different between the UK system and say US system so that our regulators are not prescriptive.

Bret Kugelmass [00:34:41] SAP framework. I love it so much. I've read every SAP back and forth. I've read the tasks, I read the guidance to the inspectors on every SAP. Also, I love the framework.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:34:52] Well, this is commitment, Bret. I like it. So internal nuclear regulator... So we're like a mini mini ONR, so we operate in a very similar way where we have Monday to go anywhere, look at anything. Ask lots of difficult questions, provide recommendations to the business. We could tell the business what to improve. We could stop activities if needed to. But day to day it's more around providing advice and guidance. And so the benefits of doing that is... and because we are still the company, so that means that we get to see a lot more about understanding the company context, understanding how the different teams work together a bit more that perhaps external regulator would do. But because we sit sort of separately, that means we have that independence that way...

Bret Kugelmass [00:35:55] You're not invested in the design choices.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:35:57] Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely.

Bret Kugelmass [00:35:59] Not emotionally invested in the design choices. Okay. And tell me about the supply chain then. And like, what do you do to make sure everything's up to quality standards and not like... Well, let me ask the question differently... What are the major risks? From your perspective that like your job is there to catch before they become problems? Like with respect to supply chain, like quality standards, not having documentation. Is it actually performance of the equipment? What is it that you're looking for?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:36:33] Yes. So maybe let me just explain a little bit about what the role the role actually is. So as you probably know, Hinkley Point C's the largest construction site in Europe and I lead a team which are inspectors in their own right. So we inspect suppliers which are international and UK based suppliers, but we also inspect our own company arrangements and that includes quality arrangements, but that also includes other arrangements too. And also, just to tell you a little bit about our supply chain, so it takes an awful lot of people to design, manufacture and install a nuclear power station. And so we've got 300 suppliers where we're in contract with those for HPC. They in turn obviously have their own supply chain. And recently we've established that we have over 5000 SOP suppliers.

Bret Kugelmass [00:37:38] Yeah, I was about to say 300 seems pretty light for a project like this.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:37:41] Exactly. This is the 300 we have the direct relationship with, but...

Bret Kugelmass [00:37:44] Okay. So like you might have a relationship with a top level supplier, which will be like your like, let's say someone who's going to install your cooling towers or something. Right. And then they'll have each... Like the fan guy or fan company and the motor company and the concrete company underneath them. Is that the idea?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:38:06] So, yes, we're not having cooling towers at HPC, but.

Bret Kugelmass [00:38:08] Ah, sorry - Bad example.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:38:11] But you've got the idea. So if you've got, you know, some sort of pump system, then you've got one person who's doing the the pump... Another person that does a motor to that pump. And they could be all installed... all manufactured at different factories. A third factory assembles altogether and tests it and then ships it to us.

Bret Kugelmass [00:38:37] How do you guys organize your build materials? Do you have, like a giant... Like, would you have a one piece of software that has everything in it that goes into your plant?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:38:47] I think a short answer is yes. I think there will be other people who would be better placed to explain how that works because we're having like kilometers of pipe work...

Bret Kugelmass [00:38:56] And I guess I'm wondering like how do you organize... Like how do you organize your team's priority is? Like do you go down the list and say, "We're going to tackle, you know, this month, we're going to tackle pipes and valves and this and that..."

Maria Kolodnytska [00:39:12] Well, I think that the way that... Because obviously we are quite, we're a relatively small team with a very, very large supply chain. And within that supply chain, there are lots of people doing things.... In the UK alone we have 22,000 people who work on HPC in some shape or form... Including 8,000 that we've got on construction sites.

Bret Kugelmass [00:39:37] So crazy. Oh, my gosh.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:39:39] So it's quite a large, large scale... Well, it's a large scale project. That's the only way I can describe it. So the way I approach it with my team is that we, we plan what we do every year. And then we also make an allowance for kind of emergent activities. And in planning what we do, we take note of what is the safety significance of that equipment. So, you know, if it's like a reactor pressure vessel, you know. Absolutely. We definitely want to go to those facilities and, you know, focus on a welding pressure vessel. If it's a valve that is on a conventional part of the plant and has no safety significance, then we'll probably never look at a valve. And I think what's worth saying is that obviously that it's not just my team who does the inspection. We are just the independent layer. So there are other people who provide the the surveillance both on site and in the factories. And in really simple terms, the more significance, the better fit, the more layers of inspection and surveillance we have.

Bret Kugelmass [00:40:48] Do you have any good stories about like a particular part of the supply chain that you and your team got in there, found something interesting or that needs to be changed or resolved and saved the day?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:40:59] Well, I'll give you a different story, which is what I found personally more sort of surprising. So I was... Earlier in the year we were doing this really large assessment into understanding how requirements get passed on to a Tier two supplier. And so some of them were really known suppliers to us who've done work in France and been in the industry for decades and in couple of cases or almost a century, which is kind of as long as industry had been alive, really. But there was a Tier three supplier that sort of happened that they were manufacturing a bit of a boiler for us and. Before I went to the supplier. Everybody's like, "Oh, but these guys are like, they haven't worked in the industry. They're just not really going to know what our expectations are." And I was kind of going to go in there, and they were in a place that didn't really have any nuclear expertize or, you know, as a country didn't have much nuclear presence. But when it went, I found them to be actually excellent. And that was that was quite, quite surprising. But I think sometimes an industry we think we know best and we would do everything best. And there are examples where we do, but we forget that there are people who also do really good things. So it was quite sort of almost humbling to find a supplier who has not worked in the industry, but they were able to raise the standards to a point that was actually... you know, even setting expectations and raising the bar for what the other companies should be doing.

Bret Kugelmass [00:42:52] That's so funny. I almost have the opposite bias that since the nuclear industry doesn't build that often or that many things, that the suppliers, I would assume, actually don't have as good processes or technologies as those that I mean, yeah, I know we're more heavily regulated, but I feel like other industries that build 10,000 of whatever the nuclear industry builds one of is going to naturally have a higher quality standard somewhere. Not every company, obviously, but there's always going to be the best. There's going to be like, you know, the German company or something that has like the most precision or something that yeah, that was that's just usually my bias is that other industries have leapfrogged nuclear in terms of performance and quality of components just through sheer scale. And we're kind of holding on to, you know, using what I think are kind of like outdated methods like. You know, just looking at like the paperwork, the paper trail of where, you know, the metallurgy came from as our, like, primary tools.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:44:01] I think we look at... Our requirements are perhaps more detailed than some of the other industries, not uniquely, you know, like airspace has has more... more requirements.

Bret Kugelmass [00:44:14] Airspace is a great example of something that they build a lot of and also has like extremely high regulatory standards. It'll be interesting to see how like what we can borrow from the airspace industry in terms of high throughput components that do awesome things.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:44:29] Yes. So when we look at our our suppliers, so often, there is an overlap. Because if it was like a factory that does valves, you know, they would do valves to whoever needs valves or if there is a factory that does like... They do it for other people too. And some of them actually separate kind of the high hazard industries, so they would do. "Well this is our work for like nuclear airspace and oil and gas. And this our work for, you know, a warehouse or a shopping center," whatever they're doing. Because our quality requirements are more stringent. Our records requirements... Probably is the bit that actually stands out more. And I think sometimes well, when I go to factories and I talk to people in the shop floor there would be inevitably something people would complain about saying, "Oh, but why are you so demanding and you want us to produce all this, you know, all of this extra tasks and all of those different records." And then I actually tell them some of the stories from decommissioning. That when you attempt to decommission something that was built like 60 years ago, and then you want to find a record to say, but how exactly do you take this thing apart or, you know, what is the thickness of this particular piece of equipment? And unless you have those records, it makes your life really, really hard. And, you know, the guys who are manufacturing, they don't always appreciate that because they think, oh, you know, there is this particular widget that will be used for five years and then kind of thrown away. I'm like, no no. Some of these things we need to use for like 60 years or maybe even a hundred years. And that's a very long time.

Bret Kugelmass [00:46:15] I know, I know. But it still troubles me that, you know, because I think there's unintended consequences. I think it's great for us to say. Yeah. We want all of these records, but we don't... I mean, but the unintended consequences are almost twofold. One is that now we're going to limit the pool of suppliers that are willing to even participate in our industry. And we might be boxing out some of the most innovative suppliers that have, you know... Like let's say, it's an electrical cabinet. There might be some incredible innovation in terms of temperature control or monitoring or digital, you know, add ons or auxiliary equipment that, you know, there's only a few companies that do that and they are simply not willing to do it and also do it to the, you know, the nuclear record standards. And now we don't get the benefit from advances in technology. So that's like one unintended consequence that I'm quite troubled by. And then the other is I think that we, you know, we're driving up cost past the point of the benefit. And so, you know, in your example where it's like, okay, we want to know what the dimensions are of this thing 60 years from now. Is it really worth it to make that component ten times more expensive? And the societal implications of nuclear being ten times more expensive than it needs to be just to not get more innovative 60 years from now on how we decommission things? These are just some of my thoughts on on the topic.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:47:47] Yeah. That's probably a discussion in its own, I think. Yeah. Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass [00:47:52] Okay. And tell me about Breat British Nuclear Task Force.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:47:56] Yeah. So I think, well, Great British Nuclear was actually a really unexpected opportunity for me. And so as you might be aware, we have a bit of an energy security challenge, opportunity. Energy security challenge and opportunity in its own right. And I think it's not unique to UK, it's similar to all countries. And I think that became even more, more important after Russia invaded Ukraine. And so a our then prime minister Boris Johnson decided to set up a taskforce to scope what is it we could do differently as a nuclear industry. And we had an exciting name of Great British Nuclear for the scoping team. And what I really liked about that was that I got to meet so many really amazing people who were in government and as well as people from industry and engage with operators and others properly internationally. So it felt like like planet Earth, you know, nuclear team in some ways. And I think what was really nice about that... Before I joined the task force, I perhaps had a bit of imposter syndrome, and I didn't quite realize that I have excellent ability to analyze information and I have real reputation for delivery and just doing things that nobody else knows how to do. But having, you know, done it for three and a half months. Looking back on it is quite exciting because I got to develop recommendations for operating model and I got to define the functions, what the future organization would look like, what would be the future role of GBN if government did decide to to start this new company... Yeah.

Bret Kugelmass [00:50:00] We're all wondering, what is the future of GBN? Do we know right now?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:50:04] Well, well, I think you need to give a call to Rishi Sunak. He probably knows...

Bret Kugelmass [00:50:10] Is he... Do you think he's, like, involved at that level? Like he's, like, personally invested...

Maria Kolodnytska [00:50:15] Oh, yes.

Bret Kugelmass [00:50:15] Like, a weekly brief even on, like, what's our latest at GBN? Like, how important actually is this at that level?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:50:23] Well, I think it's you know, it's a question to Rishi not to myself, but the recommendation that was developing is that as a scoping team in the summer we're being briefed at prime minister level. So it's that important. And obviously until government makes an announcement, then we don't really know what they're thinking. So, it's going to be at some point next year. It's almost certainly not going to be this year.

Bret Kugelmass [00:50:50] And what is your recommendation for what GBN should do?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:50:55] Well, I think they should do, you know, the full set of recommendations that we put in our report and maybe the one that we are... We have been communicating more widely is that UK needs to have a program of new nuclear builds. So, having Hinkley Point C and Sizewell C is not enough to address our energy security needs and actually address our net zero commitments as well. And I think if you just have one power station after that, it's not enough because, you know, there is a lot of momentum when you have a program and also savings to be had when you have a program, too. And so we just need to commit to a program of power stations..

Bret Kugelmass [00:51:45] So like ten or 20 gigawatts. Did you guys recommend how many? Like, how much capacity you want to install?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:51:52] So I think the energy security strategy was... I want to get my numbers right... I think it was 20 by 2050... But it's yeah, it's in a published under security strategy would be the right number.

Bret Kugelmass [00:52:09] And under a competitive system or under a monopolistic system?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:52:14] I think that's for government to decide.

Bret Kugelmass [00:52:16] Okay. So your guys' recommendation doesn't actually talk about like what factors might influence the likelihood of success of a big program?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:52:26] So I think we made recommendations against different topics. So I was involved in the more operating model and kind of functionality topic, but I would be.. so there were other streams on the stream looking at some technology selections, there was a stream looking at site selection, there was stream looking at finance and supply chain and regulatory regime of lots of other topics to.

Bret Kugelmass [00:52:52] Cool. Okay. Well, we're almost running out of time, so I want to give you the final word. Any message for our audience in general?

Maria Kolodnytska [00:52:59] Well, I think perhaps one thing I wanted to pick up is my role in Women in Nuclear. So I think the one way we would really change the future of the industry, if we make the industry a lot more diverse, a lot more inclusive and our commitment we have within Women in Nuclear is to get 40% of women into the industry by 2030. And also to increase the number of senior leaders we have who are women. So we want to get to 30% of them. And I guess in terms of, you know, the overall message. So, you know, we want to make sure that a nuclear is is an essential part of any mix for any country. We really need this for energy security. We really need nuclear to combat climate change. And, you know, maybe sometimes people who haven't worked in nuclear, know anybody from nuclear, they may not realize just how how fun it could be and how very different jobs are. And I think there is something for everybody. You know, if you're into complex technical engineering things, there is plenty to get involved in design. You can do anything from calculations to modeling. If you like more work, kind a hands on work, then you could be involved in construction and you could be, you know, almost like a skilled artisan in manufacturing. And if you just like a job for life, then, you know, you can join generation and you have 60 years of doing what you love. And what I particularly like is that one of my colleagues says that, you know, even jobs that you think of, surely there couldn't be anything like that in nuclear. So if somebody wanted to be a makeup artist, you can still get involved because we practice our emergency arrangements and sometimes we need to like paint people's faces to look like a casualty or accident so you can even do that. So I think nuclear is a great place to be because we have a variety of problems to solve. You could feel like you're part of a family, you know, especially when you're on a power station. And also, if you like nature and if you like outdoor sports, you know, we have so much beautiful nature around all of our sites. So I think, you know, anybody could find something that would really excite them.

Bret Kugelmass [00:55:21] Maria Kolodnytska, everybody. Thank you so much for joining us. Really appreciate your time and all you're doing for the industry and hope to speak to you soon.

Maria Kolodnytska [00:55:27] Thank you, Bret. It's been a pleasure and humbled to be invited. Thank you.

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