The groups of the IOP: running the Nuclear Industries Group


I’ve been in post as the current chairman of the Nuclear Industries Group (NIG) of the IOP for three years now, so my tenure is nearing its end. The NIG started about six years ago, and since then has rapidly grown in number, proving to be popular with members of the IOP.

Physics is fundamental to many aspects of the nuclear industries, not just reactor physics, but thermohydraulics, cross-section data on a wide range of isotopes, and the penetration depths of radiation to name a few.

The IOP has nearly 50 groups that all members can join for free. There are groups for various topics within physics such as plasma physics or physical acoustics, or for shared interests, such as the history of physics or physics communicators. The NIG aims to do several things for our members, including encouraging general networking, and keeping them informed of a wide variety of activities that come under the heading Nuclear Industries.

Me at wylfa
Geoff Vaughan presents at the Farewell to Magnox event (photo: Magnox Electric)

We do this mainly through evening lectures which are held at various venues round the country. We also are now moving into developing half-day and full-day seminars – the first was to celebrate the successes of the Magnox reactor programme as the last power station was closed at the end of 2015. Our thinking is that longer events will encourage attendance even if it means travelling, which evening lectures may not do.

I believe that as a group which is not purely focused on academia, but on people in a working environment, the chance to see a wider picture is particularly important.

In the last couple of years we have had talks on the new reactor project at Hinkley, small modular reactors, space batteries, use of a cyclotron in medical applications, decommissioning of a research reactor, graphite research and management of radioactive waste – a pretty wide set of subjects. We also ask lecturers if we can put their presentations on the web so that members who cannot attend can see them.

As a group, we also strive to recognise the achievements of physicists within the nuclear industry. The group awards two prizes each year – we receive nominations at the beginning of the year, and the most deserved recipients are decided upon by our prize committee.

chair contribution prize
The NIG committee awarding this year’s career contribution prize to Professor David Weaver

I see my role as ensuring that the NIG runs smoothly and rely heavily on the other officers and the committee members in doing this. The committee decides together what events we should hold and one, or a small group, of committee members takes responsibility for organisation of the event.

We have one committee member who organises nominations and elections for posts. Another committee member has taken on the role of communications officer, covering advertising of events and the group’s webpage. An important role that I must mention is that of newsletter editor. This once-a-year publication contains reports on meetings and other articles and is our main communication with members. All in all, most committee members have some specific role helping to keep the group moving ahead.

Outside these ongoing roles, we get requests from IOP for collating comments on various questionnaires, usually from government, requests for support for conferences, and general enquiries about the group. This means I probably have something to do every couple of weeks or so. It is clear that the NIG can influence the way the nuclear industries develop.

The NIG has now become a mature group and is well set up for the future.  It is recognised both within IOP and outside (we have close co-operation with the Nuclear Institute) and can play a major role in encouraging and developing physicists in industry.

It’s easy to join – just click on the button in Groups in MyIOP – there is no charge except to bring enthusiasm to the group.

  • Nominations for the Group’s prizes close on 5 February, so let us know if you feel someone deserves recognition for their work in the nuclear industry. You can find out how to nominate someone here.
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Geoff Vaughan

Geoff Vaughan

Geoff Vaughan is the chair of the IOP Nuclear Industries Group. He leads the committee in organising events, giving talks and providing support for the group members.
Geoff Vaughan

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