Member Profile

Laurence Warren

Laurence Warren

Member since 2006 and awarded SRP Scholarship in 2006/7 to do an MSc Radiation and Environmental Protection at the University of Surrey. Now working for Sellafield Ltd.

Q1. What made you decide to follow a career in Radiation Protection?

I joined the health physics community back in 2003 following redundancy. I thought the role sounded interesting even though the job description was a bit vague. After just a few months I decided a career in radiation protection provided the right amount of challenge and stimulation. Once I started interacting with the RPA community I realised there might be scope for me to pursue further training and career development.

Q2. What was your route into the profession?

I responded to an advertisement in my local paper for 'health physics surveyors' with no idea of what was involved. The interview was difficult and I remember being asked about types of radioactive decay and also sitting a maths test. With only my faded memories of secondary school physics I struggled to sound convincing. I'm sure those who interviewed me will remember my confused answers about alpha decay, beta and gamma radiation. However, I was offered the job and began training as a health physics monitor (surveyor).

Q3. How has your career progressed since joining the profession?

After spending a number of years as a health physics monitor I decided to return to education and pursue an MSc in Radiation and Environmental Protection. Whilst studying I applied for a job at Sellafield and I was successful in securing a role as a Safety Adviser. In this role I was able to build a portfolio of evidence for RPA2000 and apply for an RPA certificate of competence. Once I had successfully obtained my certification I was appointed as RPA for an area on Sellafield Site. As an RPA/Safety Advisor I endeavour to offer pragmatic advice on both radiological and conventional safety matters. I get involved with a wide variety of radiological protection activities from practical health physics methodologies, developing radiological protection standards, spillage and dose assessments, designation of areas, training (and the many other areas encompassing radiological protection) as well as the numerous areas of conventional safety that go hand-in-hand with radiological protection. In the last few months I have been working in the Sellafield Approved Dosimetry Service broadening my knowledge base on internal dosimetry and internal dose assessment – with new ICRP biokinetic models on the horizon this shift of focus has a particular pertinence as the new models will affect a number of the core assumptions we employ to assess the deposition and impact of internally deposited radionuclides. 

Q4. What is unique about a career in Radiation Protection?

The range and scope is immense - there is the technical aspect, the practical aspect and the human aspect which combine to present a unique challenge. The radiation protection professional is required to interact with a great diversity of people and consider an eclectic mix of information. Radiation protection professionals are consulted at every stage of a facilities' operation and there is always something unexpected around the corner. Sometimes, as radiological protection professionals, we forget about those people whose exposure we are trying to limit. Getting that radiological protection message across to the guys doing the work is most important and is often best achieved with good rapport.

Q5. What do you enjoy most about your career in Radiation Protection?

The ultimate aim is the protection of people from the hazards encountered during work using ionising radiation. This can have a technical starting point and there is a technical justification behind the practices we advise people to follow. However, there is a tempering of that purely technical starting point with pragmatic and workable methods to ensure that people are protected. The enjoyable bit for me is finding the balance between the technical justification and the workable solution.

Q6. What advice would you give to young people wanting to pursue a career in Radiation Protection?

Follow your interests. Radiation protection is a multi-disciplined undertaking and there is an aspect of it that is suitable for all palates. Don't be put off by the idea that health physics is just for physicists or ‘scientists’. Some of the best health physicists I know do not have a physics, or science, background.

Q7.Do you feel you have a future in Radiation Protection?

There are plenty of continuing opportunities in radiation protection; the post operations activities of care-and-maintenance, the decommissioning of old facilities, and the prospect of new build power stations, will ensure that there is a future for those who wish to work in radiation protection. 

Q8. What would [you] like to see develop in the Radiation Protection Field?

For me an improvement in the training provision around the country would be a real development. Not just those high-end courses such as the MSc but also the provision for the practical radiation protection courses (like the City & Guilds Stage 1 & 2). The skills shortage is something never far from the lips of radiation protection professionals and it is important that we address the issue; but this has to be pitched correctly.

Q9. Has SRP helped you in achieving your career goals and aspirations?

Had it not been for the award of the bursary in 2006 I would have found it much more difficult to progress my career and incurred substantial debt. Would this have deterred me from pursuing the goal of studying at Surrey for the MSc in Radiation and Environmental Protection? Probably not, but my studies would have been severely impacted upon by the worry of financial difficulty. The SRP has also provided a forum in which I could float ideas and develop my interests.

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