Interview: how to build nuclear facilities as regulation evolves 

Matthew Hannaway is a Director in the UK, who has spent his career working in highly regulated environments across infrastructure, defence, nuclear, life sciences and natural resources sectors. With a wealth of experience in facility development, including nuclear waste stores, waste retrieval plants and nuclear new builds facilities, in this interview, Matthew outlines his global experiences and the need for stakeholder alignment and collaboration to effectively perform in highly regulated nuclear environments.

The AUKUS pact, first announced in March 2023, set out bold plans to develop Australia’s first fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. A challenging national endeavour, the AUKUS pact success hinges on defence industry to establish best-in-class delivery models that solidify supply chain resilience, develop a highly skilled workforce and sustain an internationally competitive sovereign defence industry.  

Matt Hannaway KR 2

Matthew Hannaway Director, UK

What are the major challenges of delivering nuclear facilities where the regulatory framework is new and emerging?  

The success of any project depends on stability, however, in a nuclear environment, stability can be an evolving and fluid concept. In the absence of stability, I have found that the success of novel projects and programmes can hinge on the alignment and collaboration of all stakeholders and regulators involved in the project. It is critical that everyone involved understands the areas of uncertainty and are willing to collaborate on the most effective strategies to manage them. For me, collaboration is key to driving certainty across the industry. 

A collaborative delivery approach, like the principles underpinning Project 13 and the requirements in the UK’s Infrastructure and Projects Authority routemap, is essential to overcome these challenges. By adopting more collaborative approaches, I believe it is easier to deal with uncertainty, rather than defaulting back to a more traditional fixed approach. Having appropriate delivery and contracting models is also a key enabler to achieving consistency and driving towards aligned and mutual success.

How does effective strategy and set up enable working in a fluid regulatory environment? 

I have spent a lot of time setting up programme management offices (PMO) and embedding project controls frameworks into major programmes. My focus has been on the front-end strategy and set-up phase to give major programme ‘ecosystems’ the best opportunity to deliver success together.  
For me, getting the strategy and set up right at the beginning is about making sure everyone's invested and obtaining collective clarity on the outcomes required before delivery begins.

I spent a couple of years working for Network Rail, and one of the fantastic opportunities I had there was to structure an industry approach to risk and value management. This approach was built on aligning all the industry partners up front in the early lifecycle stages to move forward as a collective team.  

A PMO must set up a framework that allows the programme to evolve within the parameters of control. For example, the delivery and supply chain models can evolve, as well as the level of detail that we're managing within the projects and programmes. However, we must still stay true to business case requirements and always keep the overall objectives in sight.   

What do you think are the key risks when you're working in this type of fluid environment? 

Changing requirements are not a risk in a fluid environment, they are a fact. Risks emerge when the industry partners are not able to respond in an aligned way, and so what is needed is a partnership where everyone has the end outcome as their overriding incentive.  

In my opinion, the risks around people not being consistently and persistently aligned to the outcome are linked to contract models that do not support collaboration, and delivery models that do not support the open management of uncertainty.  

For example, setting up a global and local supply chain for a new local nuclear supply chain will require a huge amount of investment and commitment and the government needs to be committed to it. This is decades of investment that can be given to local communities, schools, colleges and manufacturing hubs, and it can give people confidence in the industry and start investing in it for the coming generations. 

You’ve spoken about supply chain and the importance of the supply chain. In your experience, what do we need to do to build a nuclear supply chain?  

Building a global supply chain is fascinating, but it comes with many challenges. It's vital to consider the level of strategic thinking needed to develop the skills required in the supply chain across the whole ecosystem. For me, the focus should be on building a supply chain that can provide sovereign security and so looking at the supply chain across the life cycle is necessary.  

Academic institutions can play a crucial role in developing the skills required for future facilities. However, I believe that breaking the barrier to education and professional training is necessary to help the next generation develop specific skills required in the supply chain. Whether project management, construction management, or nuclear reactor physics, we need to focus on the skills required and develop partnerships to help lower the barriers to entry and engage broadly across our communities. 

What do you need to get right in the strategy and set up to reduce schedule and cost impacts? 

The strategy and set-up phase should focus on understanding everyone's role and responsibilities. This way, we can avoid having one person do the same job as another, which only adds costs and does not deliver value for money.  

The early stages of a project are usually uncertain due to regulatory requirements and industry challenges. My approach is to identify areas of uncertainty and take a proactive approach to address them. Instead of ignoring the uncertainty, I recognise it and work with industry partners to deal with it early in the project.  

What skills, knowledge and attitudes are required to effectively deliver in this type of environment? 

One of the best parts of my role is to focus on how we bring diverse talent and skillsets into our PMO and project controls team, which includes engaging with professional bodies and academic institutes. Through these engagements, one of the most important things I look for in people is a passion for what we're doing.

Our industry faces many challenges, including regulatory environments, fluidity and global challenges. We need people who are resilient and can find solutions to overcome these challenges. There is a wide variety of skills needed in this industry, and people can come from anywhere, as long as they have the right behaviours and attitudes.  

Throughout my career, I have worked with a range of people, both in the UK and globally, their passion is what stands out to me. We need more leaders who encourage people from outside the industry to bring their transferable skills in. We can transform societies and positively impact people's lives through our work on major infrastructure programmes.  

For further information contact:

Matt Hannaway AUKUS

Matthew Hannaway