Tim Stone CBE
Chairman NIA UK
Chairman of the NIA, Chairman of Nuclear Risk Insurers, Independent Non-exec Director of Arup, Independent Non-exec Director of Horizon Nuclear Power, Honorary Professor at The Bartlett School of Architecture. Tim arguably has the most impressive CV in nuclear.
In 1959, when he was eight years old, Stone first turned his attention to nuclear. He speaks of a book at his travelling library on the UK’s first atomic power station, Windscale. “It was really clever and sufficiently well-written. I could understand the concepts. I wrote a story and read it out in front of the school, explaining how a nuclear reactor works. It was an intriguing idea: how you could generate so much power from something so little”.
Despite this early introduction to nuclear, you may be surprised that it was 32 years into his professional career before Tim found himself working in the nuclear industry. Despite this, his passion for nuclear is evident for all to see. “There’s a lot that we can do to improve the perceptions of the [nuclear] industry, but it’s a long, gradual process, and we have to work with the media and try and call out journalists who seem intent on making headlines and don’t care about the consequences. It would be terrific if we could spend some time thinking about how to reframe the conversation. Journalists see the high standards of safety around nuclear as proving it’s monumentally risky. No, it’s not. It’s quite the opposite: the standards and safety culture around nuclear make it safe! 90% of the population think it’s terrifying. I recently met some young engineers taught in Berlin that a nuclear reactor is a bomb with a cage around it. A better analogy would be nitroglycerine which makes dynamite and cures angina – there are two completely different ways you can use it.”
Stone also believes there needs to be a bigger conversation on the purpose of education: “It has to be about making the best of life’s opportunities, linking into jobs in the future. The nuclear industry is creating thousands of fantastic new jobs. I try to do anything I can do to help, such as helping STEM ambassadors enthuse kids. I recently did a talk on the connection between earthquakes and bananas.” The link? The heat in the molten rock that causes shifts in the earth tectonic plates comes in part from the decay of Potassium-40. Bananas are, of course, potassium-rich, and that includes the same isotope of potassium. “It’s about finding those things that will make people think ‘Ooh, that’s neat’,” Stone says, bringing to mind the 8-year-old boy who once chanced on a book on Windscale, which kickstarted an enthusiasm for nuclear that still endures to this day.
Before working in nuclear, Stone concluded his academic career at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, where he gained a DPhil in Physical Chemistry, establishing a love of teaching physical chemistry for Oriel College and translating complicated concepts for consumption outside scientific communities. His professional career started as a Senior Manager at the management consulting firm Arthur Andersen & Co. He went on to be a Managing Director at Chase Manhattan Corporation in New York and Director at S.G. Warburg & Company Limited, working in the UK and overseas. He then founded and became Chairman, Global Infrastructure and Projects Group for KPMG. He spent almost 18 years and finally got to work in the nuclear industry, advising the UK government.
The above is very impressive, and we forgive you for thinking that it will be nigh on impossible to follow in the footsteps of Stone. However, if you look at the real lesson here, Stone has utilised his transferrable skills throughout his career. There is a wide range of roles in the nuclear industry covering many skill-sets. You must identify your transferrable skills and how they can be applied to the nuclear industry.
There is no shortage of help in this arena, such as the NSSG Career Pathways. At Get Into Nuclear, we have helped many people develop a skills-based CV by following the six-steps to get into nuclear guidance.
“It’s about finding those things that will make people think ‘Ooh, that’s neat,” Stone says, bringing to mind the 8-year-old boy who once stumbled upon a book on Windscale.
As a parting comment, Stone leaves some advice to the next generation interested in a career in the nuclear industry:
"Stick with it – it’s a fantastic career for life."
And for those more ambitious in their career aspirations, the advice he received on arriving in New York from a veteran Wall Street banker:
“You need to hire people smarter than you, empower them, protect them, get out their way but only take half the credit.”