Dr Sue Ion is British Nuclear Fuels' (BNFL)
most senior woman. She controls an annual research and development
(R&D) budget of about £80 million (two-thirds
of the company's annual spend on R&D) and a staff of
950 located at three sites. This industry underpins many
of the things we take for granted in everyday life.
Even as a schoolgirl Sue Ion could see
the importance of nuclear power. 'I got a prize at O-level
and chose a book on nuclear power. I've always seen it as
a high-tech, forward-looking industry that benefits mankind.'
She decided to take a degree in materials science because
it combined both physics and chemistry, subjects she had
enjoyed at school. Her doctoral thesis concerning fuel rods
for Magnox nuclear reactors was awarded the prize for best
thesis in the faculty, and was a calling-card for BNFL.
She started working there in 1979.
The R&D programme she manages underpins
all aspects of BNFL's business. The wide remit of her new
role was initially a challenge as her previous experience
was in the area of fuel manufacturing. The foundation of
excellence in science and technology which she believes
the company is built on requires a continual flow of first-rate
scientists and engineers. Graduates must be shown that the
industry can offer challenging and worthwhile careers. And
women technologists are playing an increasing role reflecting
the greater numbers now seen in mainstream engineering compared
with twenty years ago.
Sue is a member of the Women's Engineering
Society. She has spoken on many occasions about the need
to encourage girls to consider careers in science and engineering,
and she gave a Daphne Jackson Memorial Lecture on this very
subject. Sue is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
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