Ep 272: Nathan Paterson - Sr Technology Advisor, Foratom
Nathan’s studies and graduate program
Q. You studied physics, why did you choose nuclear industry for your career, not any other
popular field of physics?
A. Nathan studied science and physics, his courses covered many fields, including photonics,
laser physics, material science, nuclear fission and fusion. He took part in a nuclear submarine
graduate program, that included system engineering, safety engineering and other aspects of
nuclear submarines. It is a great way to start a career, to see which area of the industry you like.
Nathan cannot share any details of technology they worked on,
First tasks at Rolls-Royce
Q. After you finished the marine propulsion program, you moved to nuclear industry?
A. After finishing the graduate program Nathan moved to Rolls-Royce but was still involved in
the naval propulsion program, working on different areas of nuclear safety, internal and external
hazards, assessment and identification. He got involved in verification and validation for a new
iteration of one of the nuclear reactors and it was a fantastic experience because such a project
doesn’t happen very often, only every few decades.
Verification & Validation of a nuclear design
Q. What is verification and validation of the design?
A. It means taking design requirements and verifying them through different means like analytic
testing, computer modeling, validating those models with physical tests like e.g. thermohydraulic
testing. Nathan could observe the evolution of different systems of the plant from design to
proving it and manufacturing.
Business development at Rolls-Royce
Q. You also worked for business development of Rolls-Roys. What kind of experience is that?
How does Rolls-Roys expand globally?
A. Nathan was working for certain areas and customers to help develop marketing and produc
development. One of the areas was e.g. Emergency Diesel Generators. He would lead the talks
with customers in Finland, Russia, discussing the solutions they were interested in and agreeing
it with the teams back in UK, France and Germany.
Q. Right now you work for Foratom which is an association. How were you drawn to this area?
A. For Nathan, starting in engineering and following to bussiness development, it was a natural
progression to move to Foratom. Foratom works on understanding how nuclear industry can fit
in to the EU level, understanding where different policies, legislations could be optimized.
Nathan got the opportunity to focus on supply chain, so he can stay close to the industry and
also Reasearch and Innovation working group.
Supply chain working group at Foratom
Q. What are your tasks there and how do you work to develop the communication between the
A. One of the areas is how the supply chain can be optimized to fit in the needs of nuclear
industry. The supply chain working group involves industry experts, workshops to discuss the
national matters of each members, share lessons learnt. One of the issues that Nathan covered
lately was preparing a report on this subject, including adjusting to the needs of Long Term
Operation. On average European NPPs are 35 years old, so in the nearest future a cycle of
LTO processes is coming, but in certain areas there are difficulties in accessing the right
supplier. One of these areas are all the equipment undergoing ASME certification. Some of the
components doesn’t need to be nuclear grade equipment, so there is an opportunity to access
high quality industrial items from other industries. The issue is how to leverage this experience
with using non-nuclear grade items. It’s being done in America, the practice is called
commercial grade dedication, but it’s not yet well developed in Europe.
Q. One of these problems could be codification. Each country has a choice of code to design
components, so if you are a supplier working internationally, you need to adjust to many
A. This is exactly something that Foratom tries to open the door for. Foratom is discussing the
topic in collaboration with WENRA (Western European Nuclear Regulators Association),
because industry and regulators are two sides of this issue. The LTO programs are on the onset
now, so Foratom has to act quite soon.
Research & Innovation at Foratom
Q. The other part of your work is research and innovation. What are you doing there?
A. It is another working group composed of industry experts analyzing R&I projects at EU level.
The focus is on how can industry facilitate and help with creation of these programs. One
example is Euratom R&D program, which is strictly directed to nuclear, but there are also wider
frameworks, like Horizon Europe. The task is to propose optimization and better synergies
between nuclear and non-nuclear areas like material science, digitalization, advanced
Key areas of innovation in nuclear
Q. What are the key areas to innovate in nuclear right now?
A. It depends of the wished boundary life of such a startup. You can think of designing a new
SMR, but you could also think of digitalization of the existing nuclear fleet, trying to provide
better health monitoring of components. So there is a need for the exciting things like new
reactors, but also services for the current fleets. There is plenty of discussion about new
components and new systems as well, like 3D printing, additive manufacturing. But in some of
these, there are still issues with qualification of the products, especially if a component is
fulfilling a safety function. It’s a great time to come to nuclear industry with new fresh ideas
All the applications beyond electricity production present a lot of opportunities for a new mindset
to approach these areas. Moreover, bridging the gap between other energy sectors is of
importance, many energy need such coupling.
The politics of the EU regarding nuclear power
Q. Do you think that EU is doing good job with including nuclear in its low carbon strategy?
A. There are opportunities for nuclear to be involved at the EU level, there are some positive
statements, but there is not enough pull forward. EU is working on European Green Deal, which
is an opportunity to show how nuclear can play an important role in the 2050 strategy for de-
carbonization of the continent. We’re also experiencing the ties of the pandemic, nuclear can
play an important role here, both existent fleet and new technologies.
Q. What are some other frameworks that nuclear should be included in?
A. One of them is so called taxonomy, being sustainable finance system. It involves deciding
what should be classified as sustainable investment. At the present moment it is not decided if
nuclear will be in or out of that agreement. Not only Foratom, but many associations,
stakeholders, Ecomodernists all across Europe are all seeing that we need to wake up now and
include nuclear in this system. There is strong lobby against nuclear, different member states
have turned their back on nuclear or were never into it. On the other side there is a lobby for gas
industry. It is hard to unite all these sides on one piece of paper. Before issuing final version of
taxonomy an expert group gathers to decide whether nuclear life cycle is sustainable or not.
Nathan is confident of their conclusion, but there needs to be an opportunity to double-check
that. And then hopefully the nuclear industry will have an open door to the sustainable financing.
Nathan doesn’t think that the taxonomy issue is related to the public opinion because the
sustainable finance framework is based on the work of numerous technical expert groups set up
looking of different areas. One of them is Do No Significant Harm principle, that is mainly used
to push nuclear out of the taxonomy. Nuclear is analyzed by experts, but not in nuclear field,
rather in finance. Foratom is engaged to give these people access to information, but the same
is being done by people against nuclear industry. Recently there has been a call for a new panel
of nuclear experts to assess the true qualities of nuclear and its possible affiliation with this
framework. Foratom supports engagement with the public, trying to cooperate with nuclear societies
involved in this area. But Foratom’s main focus area is EU policy site.
Young Generation of Nuclear Society
Q. Yet another society in your history is Nuclear Society. You used to be a chair of European
Nuclear Society Young Generation Network. Any cool memories from that time?
A. Nathan used to be a representative of Nuclear Society YGN in UK. He was involved in many
aspects, e.g. promoting nuclear in outreach work, organizing conferences, events, speaking at
industry events on behalf of the young people. Young Generation community is of the things for
which nuclear industry has golden standard.
Among the advantages of joining a nuclear society is that it bridges the gap, it makes nuclear
much more human. It makes the industry much more diverse, brings people with a lot of energy,
it bring together people who do not only want to talk about nuclear technology, but also on how
it fits in the context – get involved in Nuclear for Climate initiative, go into climate change
conferences. It creates the platform to bring all these things together and it makes you open
your eyes. So you can leverage and build on the initiatives from country A and bring it to country
B. Being in nuclear society makes you think of nuclear rather as an avocation than only a job.
You get more connection to this technology and benefits of nuclear. It can get frustrating for
people if they are only attached to nuclear on professional level and don’t really understand the
opportunities in the nuclear industry. In the society you can exchange views with senior
professionals so it enables a richer dialogue on where the industry should go. Nathan believes
that senior people appreciate hearing the views of YGN.
Young Generation communities take different nuclear advocacy initiatives in uncommon areas,
like pubs. Public knows that these are not people in suits coming from nuclear industry, that
they will address the concerns and touch controversial topics.
Future of nuclear in Nathan’s eyes
Q. Are you excited about the future and how should it look like for you to be satisfied?
A. Nathan is very excited about the opportunities for nuclear industry. Firstly, from technology
side, especially focusing on the non-electric applications of nuclear energy. There are going to
be new reactors coming through, SMRs, micro reactors, advanced nuclear reactors providing
heat at much higher level than existing PWRs. It’s going to open the door for applications like
hydrogen production, district heating. Hopefully it’s going to make nuclear much more
accessible and understandable for the public and other industries as well. There are some
industries that already look out to partnerships seeking nuclear technologies, e.g. in Poland,
Estonia. It’s a great time for engineers to be involved in nuclear projects like Gen IV.