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Interview with Agneta Rising, WNA Director General

WNA's new Director General Agneta Rising joins us having previously held the position of Vice President Environment at Vattenfall AB, where she headed a pan-European department focused on energy, environment and sustainability. 

Ms. Rising joined Vattenfall AB (then Swedish State Power Board) in 1980, where her career centred on radiological protection.

Ms. Rising is co-founder and former president of Women in Nuclear (WIN). Ms. Rising has also been president of the European Nuclear Society and the Swedish Nuclear Society. 

Agneta Rising has been appointed by the Swedish government, the EU Commission and the International Atomic Energy Agency to several expert and advisory positions relating to the safety and future development of nuclear power.  

Agneta RisingAgneta, you've joined the WNA after many years at Vattenfall, one of our member companies. How will that industry experience influence your leadership of WNA?

I think that industry perspective will be extremely important when working with our members and understanding their needs.

I've been working for many years on the full nuclear fuel cycle, including decommissioning. And I've been working not only on nuclear, but all kinds of energy sources, so I have quite a good knowledge on the comparative impacts of different methods of electricity generation. 

There is great potential for nuclear energy to grow because global energy demand is growing. But our members will decide whether to invest in new nuclear capacity or to choose another energy source based on their merits. 

It is extremely important to bring the members together. Our conferences are important, but it is our working groups that enable our members companies' staff to learn and exchange information. We find that participants value being part of the working groups; you cannot find this platform anywhere else. 

 
How can WNA better address the needs of our member companies?

Another priority for WNA is the internet. Our websites are our most important vehicles for conveying information to the global audience. 

Our content is excellent and is frequently updated, but we will do more to improve how it is used, to raise its profile amongst decision makers and make it accessible to a broader audience. 

WNA must also become more active in emerging nuclear markets, to help our members access those markets so they can offer their knowledge and experience and to develop relationships in these exciting new nuclear countries. 

 
Looking to how we have engaged with our stakeholders, have we focussed too much on saying why people need to use nuclear, and not on why they should choose nuclear? 

We should put more emphasis on why people should choose nuclear energy. We have plenty of energy sources, plenty of ways of making electricity and heat and so on. But there are very few that have a lower impact on the environment and nuclear has really good environment characteristics - and people would choose nuclear if they had access to better information about these benefits. 

 
Despite these benefits people still have concerns about nuclear safety. What can be done to address this?   

We have had continuous improvement of the safety of our reactors and this needs to continue. In all aspects of life we are getting higher and higher safety levels. The things we would have accepted for traffic thirty years ago, for example, we would not accept today. Nuclear has to keep up with society's changing expectations. 

Organizations such as WANO and IAEA are helping improve our operations and standards. We are also developing better monitoring so we can take action to avoid potential problems before they happen.

 
What is it that WNA should be doing to be working with other nuclear organizations - and more broadly with other global organizations? 

We need to work closer with Foratom, NEI and other nuclear associations. We are all working with similar objectives. When we work together we will have a stronger voice. 

But it is very important that we work with a broader range of organizations; we need to be talking more with people outside of the nuclear industry. WNA needs to be the face of the industry in the wider world, for example working with the IEA, ICC and WEC.  

 
What do our members need to do to ensure the success of nuclear energy? 

We need to do more to overcome the perception that still exists that the nuclear industry is secretive. We need to engage in a more understanding dialogue. 

We need to be more proactive, to listen more to the questions and concerns people have. We need to be in dialogue with organizations that can be critical of our industry. 

We have to be more open - and we are now more open. But we haven't done enough to help people find the information we provide. 

 
Should WNA be doing more to provide that information or do we need to find ways to help member companies? 

I think it is both. There are fora to which a national company or even a global company cannot gain entry, where only WNA can be industry's representative. And where the national businesses or their national associations deal with issues themselves we can provide support. 

 
What do you see as being the contribution of nuclear energy in the longer term? 

The long term prospect for nuclear energy is growth. But now we are in a situation where in the short term that growth has slowed, and may even decrease in some regions. 

We live in very challenging times.  But I'm optimistic because I know there is a very good case for nuclear. There will be a greater demand for energy; we know the world needs energy sources like nuclear that have less impact on the environment than many of the energy sources used today.  

 
You've now spent some time here in the WNA office, talking with the staff. What have your impressions been about the WNA? What do you like and what needs to change? 

First of all I'm impressed by the WNA. I'm really happy to come here and be the Director General of such a great organization. It has a great membership, there's a great secretariat and a super-good website and news service. 

I would like our membership to grow, so that we have more comprehensive representation from all areas of the world. 

I also want to see the secretariat deliver on the expectations of the members. That means we need to have even closer contact with them. When we look to what WNA can and should deliver for our members it is obvious that we have to find more efficient ways of working so we can deliver more.