Malla Jääskeläinen works to achieve safe nuclear energy in the UAE.
Text: Laura Kaapro
It only took one university course to get a young woman hooked – on nuclear power.
Malla Jääskeläinen had struggled with her studies of quantum mechanics at Helsinki University of Technology in Finland. It wasn’t until a mandatory course in nuclear technology that she found something truly interesting.
“Nuclear technology appeared to me as something so delightfuly concrete, compared to theoretical studies of quantum mechanics”, says Jääskeläinen. “I was also drawn by the social aspect of nuclear power. I wanted to be an expert in a subject that is so controversial.”
Nowadays Jääskeläinen supports nuclear power.
“I think that the best overall energy solution is a combination of safe nuclear power and renewable energy.”
After her graduation Jääskeläinen worked as a nuclear energy scientist for VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, and then as a licensing manager in Finnish nuclear power company Fennovoima.
In 2012 she became aware of UAE’s first nuclear power plant project, launched three years earlier. She was instantly intrigued.
“They had started an entire nuclear energy project from scratch”, says Jääskeläinen. “It was fascinating.”
Jääskeläinen has now worked for two years for ENEC (Emirates Nuclear Energy Corporation). Her job is all about nuclear safety. She follows non-conformance and condition reports initiated by employees at the nuclear power plant site, and is involved with coordinating self-assessments to improve performance.
When something serious occurs – such as a component breaks – Jääskeläinen assembles a group of experts to perform detailed investigations in order to identify the root causes of the event.
Mistakes often aren’t associated with construction or the technology but the functionality of the organisation.
“In those situations we have to find out how to change our ways of working, so that the same mistake never happen again.”
ENEC is currently in the process of building four nuclear power plant units. The first one is due to start for commercial operation at the end of 2017.
“The project is meeting its schedule amazingly well”, says Jääskeläinen.
She thinks it is due to the dynamic ways of working.
“Problems get acknowledged quickly, and everyone is driven to find solutions. We don’t stop work to dwell on problems or start pointing fingers”, says Jääskeläinen. “The project is going forward so well because we’re ready to alter the course of actions when proven beneficial. Experiencing that attitude has been great.”
Other Middle East countries have also taken interest in nuclear power lately. Jääskeläinen says that new projects are likely to get launched in the area.
“There are lots of opportunities for Finnish nuclear experts in the UAE”, says Jääskeläinen. “Finland has a great reputation and lots of expertize when it comes to nuclear safety.”