Energy & Climate Change

By Heli Blåfield

At the heart of the network

It is possible that there has never been such a brisk leader in the nuclear industry. Marjut Vähänen, the new director of the FinNuclear Association, has three degrees and drives a red Jaguar. She encourages Finnish companies to take the plunge into the nuclear industry.

FinNuclear’s new director Marjut Vähänen has an interesting background and a breathtaking amount of expertise. She’s an engineer and a physicist, and she has an eMBA and an M.Sc. (econ) – and soon also a PhD in networking and marketing.

If you’re not intrigued by this combination, you surely will be by her brisk attitude and her sense of humor, which covers everything from her high heels to her red hair.

“Two men were replaced by one woman,” laughs the cheerful Vähänen when talking about her new position at the FinNuclear Association, or an association of organizations active in the nuclear industry in Finland.

All of FinNuclear’s employees are now women. There are exceptionally many women in the nuclear industry in general in Finland. Vähänen is quick to point out that the work in the nuclear industry is in no way dependent on a person’s gender, however.

Assuming the new role was easy for Väisänen, as she already knew the people active in the industry well due to her extensive work experience. She has been working in positions related to nuclear power for almost twenty years, most recently as a program manager at Posiva.

Plenty of opportunities in the industry

Vähänen’s new role focuses on the development of stakeholder cooperation. The goal is to create new business opportunities for enterprises in the fields of nuclear industry and energy production.

“There is plenty of related expertise in different places: you just need to find it,” Vähänen says.

Vähänen encourages companies to specialize in the nuclear industry.

 “In the international markets, experience from the nuclear industry serves as proof of the company’s capability to complete other demanding projects.”

“We plan to develop Finnish expertise and the Finnish network to make companies ready for demanding nuclear projects.”

There is a growing need in the industry for new experts in different fields with different educational backgrounds. Vähänen says that expertise in construction, steel, automation, research, and engineering is in high demand. Duties in the industry can involve the design and construction of nuclear power plants, research and development, or safety, for example.

“New nuclear projects are ongoing in Finland regarding the disposal of spent nuclear fuel and the modernization of existing plants. These projects will offer work for a large group of people for a long time to come.”

Support for training

Many Finnish companies are eager to join international nuclear projects, but they do not always have the required information and experience. Knowledge of quality systems and the YVL Guides (nuclear safety guidelines) are important when qualifying for the nuclear industry.

“We plan to develop Finnish expertise and the Finnish network to make companies ready for demanding nuclear projects.”

FinNuclear has developed digital materials offered free of charge that companies aiming for the nuclear industry can use to assess their strengths. Vähänen hopes that companies will use the materials to train their employees.

“We have five hours of materials starting from the very basics of nuclear power in the ELLEN learning environment, for example. We also offer tools that companies can use to assess their own expertise level.”

Extensive network benefits everyone

FinNuclear is also developing business networks or clusters to share expertise and boost export. The networking aims at increasing FinNuclear’s member base.

A cluster has been established in Oulu to support the Hanhikivi 1 project. Fennovoima is a member of FinNuclear, and Toni Hemminki, Fennovoima’s CEO, is a member of FinNuclear’s Board of Directors.

“Finnish authorities and licensees or operators have plenty of expertise. Finland also has strong nuclear waste management expertise. Business networks and the expertise areas of companies are extensive, which is reflected in the membership bases of associations,” Vähänen says.

FinNuclear is involved in the arranging of key events in the industry, such as the Nordic Nuclear Forum, which Finland will host again in 2021. This spring, FinNuclear will attend Atomexpo in Russia, sharing a stand with other Finnish experts.

“We are a platform that enables networking, and we can also promote networking. There is plenty of expertise for Finnish and international projects,” Vähänen believes.

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