A Conversation with Pamela Naidoo-Ameglio from ANSTO on Women In Nuclear

Posted on: 28 June 2021Latest News

Cyclotek’s media associate Nicoletta Snellen recently interviewed Pamela Naidoo-Ameglio about her role at ANSTO and her engagement within WiN Australia – Women in Nuclear. Cyclotek recently announced a partnership with Women In Nuclear Australia with the aim to promote education, awareness and gender diversity within the nuclear medicine industry.

Can you tell us a little bit about your role at ANSTO, what’s your story?
I’m the group executive for the nuclear precinct at ANSTO which means that I look after our nuclear reactor OPAL plus the nuclear medicine production facilities as well as nuclear waste services, including work around commercial offerings in radiation services and minerals.

I’m very much focused on ensuring that we have reliability in the nuclear medicine production from end-to-end and that we are providing a range of services to the Australian public.

Wow that sounds like quite a high-pressure job!
There’s always something going on because I’m working with a number of production facilities. I think the focus on being reliable is really important, because all the staff that work there are really aware of the dependency in terms of nuclear medicines and research. We’re looking for a reliable supply, so there’s a lot of effort spent on making sure our production facilities are safe and reliable while we operate.

I’m wondering, what is it about nuclear medicine, or nuclear in general that inspires you?
I think for me personally, it’s the fact that nuclear has such a range of applications and the ability to help solve a number of problems, not just in the nuclear medicine space which is where a lot of attention focuses, but more broadly, from an energy perspective in providing clean energy and water, from a research perspective in looking at best practise in agriculture to improve yields. Nuclear is so wide ranging and as a scientist that appeals to me a lot and as a life-long learner, the opportunities to learn about new things is very attractive. 

Absolutely, often when we speak to people who might not know much about nuclear, their minds go straight to Chernobyl, what would you have to say to people who might be fearful of nuclear?
Globally, there are so many nuclear power and research reactors that have been working safely for the past 60 or more years, but we don’t hear about it in the news because they are working as planned. I think it’s important for the general public to understand that when an accident happens, there is a series of events that may come together to cause that accident, but there’s a lot of effort dedicated to making sure that those events don’t happen. The nuclear industry is one of the most highly regulated industries. A lot of that thinking and practise around safe design, operation and risk management is something that plays out across the nuclear environment as a whole.

Why are you involved with WiN? What can you tell us about what they do?
I’ve always been involved with professional organisations in my career. I started Women In Mining in South Africa when I was in the mining industry because I’m really passionate about getting more diversity in the STEM industry. Traditionally, industries like mining and nuclear have had very few women both join and stay in the industry and I think it’s important for the development of those industries that women do remain there and make their contribution.

So, when I joined ANSTO and the nuclear industry, I was fortunate to have among my team members, WiN committee members and I could see the great work they were doing to promote education and knowledge about the nuclear industry and for me it was totally aligned with what I’d like to do.

Definitely, I know that Cyclotek is excited to have joined WiN and I think it’s going to be a great resource for our staff coming from all disciplines whether you’re in corporate or working in the lab.
Definitely! As I said, my background is in mining and I spent 24 years there in a totally different field of science and engineering. However, what I learnt in mining is very applicable to the nuclear industry when it comes to any type of operation, we all have that focus on safety, reliability and managing and developing people. Key to me is that desire to learn, I’ve been in the nuclear industry now for 3 years, during which I’ve been on a steep learning curve and I can see that there is more and more to learn about, so that keeps me excited and engaged.

I note that the WiN website talks about how men can also contribute towards WiN, what advice would you give to women and men working in nuclear?
I think it’s about telling that story, your story about why you’re in the nuclear industry and how nuclear science and technology is enabling great improvements in our health, our environment and the development of so many industries. A priority at WiN is asking ourselves: How can we encourage and support our members tell the story of nuclear? How can we provide them with the information and facts when there are myths to be dispelled?

Do you have any words of wisdom for women who are thinking of a career in nuclear medicine?
I think the first thing is to believe in yourself, a lot of women tend to experience self-doubt, and I am one of them. But to overcome that doubt, be resilient and chase after your dreams is important because there is a lot of support out there, people do want you to succeed.

Another aspect is what we’ve discussed earlier which is continued learning. It’s not just about the technical learning, it’s about the tools that you can equip yourself with to be a leader, to manage teams or to build those communication skills. The thing about the nuclear industry is you do not need to be a nuclear engineer or a scientist, it needs input from a whole array of disciplines and everyone has something to contribute. I would say, find what it is about the nuclear industry that inspires you and how you can contribute.

Was there anything else you wanted to tell our staff at Cyclotek about WiN
Well, one of the things inspires me about WiN is their aim to bring information to the public and to encourage women in particular and young people in general to learn more about nuclear and be better informed when issues come up for debate.

I think getting involved with the different nuclear organisations and WiN in particular offers everyone that ability. The offerings WiN have, are only possible because we have a committee of enthusiastic volunteers and sponsors. WiN are planning different events (webinars and in person) that are across the range from scientific to professional development and public interest, so there is actually something for everyone.

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