top of page

From Geophysicist to Director of Site & Operations

Updated: Dec 2, 2022

Today we speak to Mike Pigott Director of Site & Operations, at Nuclear Waste Services


In this article you will learn about Mikes' unique first working day, his varied career and how he has taken his transferrable skills and applied them to the nuclear industry. Whatsmore, you will see how Mikes' behaviours and attitude allowed him to climb the ladder becoming an Executive at a very young age.

I have really enjoyed finding out about Mike and his career story. It is often not until we take the time to look back that we appreciate the hard work that has gone before.


I feel Mike has a strong work ethos in all aspects of his life. This has meant that, for him, there is no work-life balance, it is all just living. This attitude with the courage to take opportunities when they present themselves are things that we can all learn.


Hopefully, Mikes' story will inspire you to consider making the move into nuclear using the skills you have learned from other sectors.


Now over to Mike.

 

Before you read on - we have created an email course to guide you through the process of defining your career path into the nuclear industry. Check it out below:

FREE Six-Steps To Get Into Nuclear

 

Early Life


I grew up in Sheffield. This meant that the Peak District was only a short hitch-hike away, Wharncliffe Woods Mountain Biking Trails was around the corner and the Sheffield Ski Village dry ski slope was only a bus ride from home.


I've always aimed to work to live, not live to work, and I have always been happy to compromise with long commutes to work in order to live as close as possible to the great outdoors.


Mountains remain a large part of my life, the Lake District continues to bring me some balance, and a run in the Lakeland fells with my three spaniels is my idea of heaven.


What was the first day in your first job like?


The first day in my first job was unique and has defined every day since.


It started on a flight from Doncaster Sheffield Airport to Schiphol Airport, then a flight to Buenos Aires, followed by a final flight to an airstrip in Patagonia at Puerto Santa Cruz. When I finally got to my 'desk' it was on an ocean-going survey vessel.


My first day was a 12hr shift as an offshore processing geophysicist exploring oil & gas in the Southern Atlantic Ocean.


This was very much the same for the 42 x 12hrs shifts back to back, 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off for the next 3 years of my life working offshore in Argentina, Brasil, Antarctic, The Falkland Islands, Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea.


"I've always aimed to work to live, not live to work"

How did you find yourself working in the nuclear industry?


Following a move from offshore surveying into video infrastructure surveying and asset management on the UK rail network, I was approached about an opportunity with Magnox Wylfa [a nuclear power plant in Anglesey at the time].


This coincided with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority being established and a cultural movement from the owner-operator model to a manage-and-operate model under contract to the NDA.


Our early focus was on value for money, hazard reduction and of course electricity generation due to the revenue we generated to fund the wider estate. It was an early spotlight for me on the transferability of knowledge, insight and experience across high-hazard, highly regulated industries.


I put my heart and soul into understanding and influencing our [the nuclear] sector, and I have many influential formal and informal mentors to thank for my successful appointment as Site Programme Manager as a member of the Executive Team on an operational reactor site at the age of 32.


What were your perceptions of the nuclear industry before you joined? How have these changed?


From the outside, I perceived the sector to be all about highly technical resources working with cutting edge technology.


The reality was a very proud almost family-like community of highly varied professions, often working with an ageing asset base.


Early on in my career, I became passionate about nuclear new build and the positive impact it could have on achieving net-zero.


That passion led to me taking a secondment from Magnox to work for the Office for Nuclear Regulation as Nuclear New-Build Programme Manager and subsequently working with Hitachi, Horizon Nuclear Power and Rolls-Royce new build programmes. I provided optimism to the new and developing technologies from Hitachi UKABWR to the Rolls-Royce SMR.


What advice would you offer to a young person looking to start a career? Any advice they should ignore?


Dream big, work hard, be kind. And don't ever let age hold you back!


Only the other week at the age of 47, I was told I was unlikely to remember a key learning event in our industry. In fact, I recalled the incident perfectly as a lead team member on an operating reactor site at the time of the incident.

If you could send your 18-year-old self career advice, what would you say?

Act with humility and empathy. Embrace vulnerability, learn quicker.


Any advice for more experienced people looking to sector jump from other industries into nuclear?


Don't be intimidated by the technology, so many aspects of our work are transferrable.


I have had the opportunity to work in many aspects of our sector - from new-build to operational and decommissioning reactors, and waste management. I have worked as a regulator, nuclear site licensee, GDA Requesting Party, nuclear site licence applicant and advisory consultant.


All aspects of our work in nuclear are transferrable across high-hazard, highly regulated sectors for example nuclear, aviation, rail, water, defence and more.


Is there anything as part of your role, company or organisation that you would like to take the opportunity to tell people about?


I'm currently benefitting from every aspect of my 25-year career as a regulator, nuclear site licensee, GDA Requesting Party, nuclear site licence applicant and advisory consultant. I probably hold the greatest accountability I have ever had in my career, the exciting part of my current role is that I have the privilege of trust and authority to execute that accountability.


I hold the position of Director of Site and Operations, at Nuclear Waste Services. I work in collaboration with colleagues to lead, direct and control all activities on the LLW Repository Nuclear Licensed Site - safely, compliantly and as responsible stewards, with professionalism, integrity, humility, pride and pace.


At the LLW Repository Site, we have a proud past, a busy present and an exciting future in optimising the use of our site to the benefit of customers and stakeholders.


As responsible stewards we promote sustainability through the provision of highly-skilled jobs and supply-chain opportunities, contributing positively to the communities in which we live, work and play.


Our move to Nuclear Waste Services brings together the UK’s leading nuclear waste management capabilities from LLW Repository, Radioactive Waste Management, the Integrated Waste Management Programme and more. It is a fabulous opportunity to capitalise on the LLWR's proven operational track record to provide an integrated way of tackling the waste of the past while offering more sustainable and efficient services to waste producers, now and in the future.


It's a really exciting time for the sector, dealing with the legacy of the early days of our industry, in order to enable new build and the realisation of net-zero. I’m certainly the most optimistic and excited I have ever been in my career, and I am surrounded by colleagues who feel the same way, I’m really looking forward to a long future with Nuclear Waste Services!

Act with humility and empathy. Embrace vulnerability, learn quicker.

How Can People Find Out More About You?


You can find me on LinkedIn here.


You can find my profile on the gov.uk website here.


Inspirational


I'd like to thank Mike for taking the time to tell his career story. What a unique and interesting career that has taken you across the world and landed you with a role in an industry that you are passionate about in an industry that is helping to actualise the aspirations of net-zero.


Closing Statement


Mikes' story shows that there are many routes into the nuclear industry and in many ways it is an advantage to bring new ways of working from your experience in other industries.


Remember to work to live, have the courage to pursue opportunities, embrace vulnerability, learn quicker and be passionate about what you do and the people you work with - Care!


Leave a comment below or send a message if you have any queries. You'll be amazed at the helpfulness of the nuclear community.

 


Check out the rest of our website to find out more below about the:
UK Nuclear Industry
Types of Jobs in Nuclear 
Career Stories of Nuclear Workers
Definitions of Nuclear
Live Nuclear Jobs