During my tenure as chairman of the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority, I have been continually reminded that when it comes to public scrutiny, few industries receive more critical attention and less acclaim than the nuclear industry. It has also been my experience that few organisations have shown such ability to adapt to change.
For more than 50 years, UKAEA was an operator of nuclear reactors and research facilities. But in the early 1990s its role changed to the task of decommissioning and cleaning up its former research sites. This has required a radical change of culture. Staff who had spent their working lives getting the best performance out of complex plants were now asked to plan their demise.
The first challenge was to instil a new sense of purpose in UKAEA - a timely mission to restore the environment. Despite a few pockets of resistance, our people readily accepted the new direction. To date, 15 reactors have been dismantled, with large areas of contaminated land restored and removed from nuclear restrictions.