Manuel Martín Ramos


Texts: Beatriz Lamela Pascua| Photos: Manuel Martín Ramos

My name is Manuel Martín Ramos. I am an engineer specialised in energy technologies graduated in the School of Industrial Engineering of the Techincal University of Madrid.  After one year as a junior researcher in severe accidents in nuclear power plants in the Chair of Nuclear Technology, I worked 11 years in the engineering subsidiary of Union Fenosa (now Naturgy Engineering) in nuclear safety, decommissioning and spent fuel management projects (in particular as the engineering project manager of the independent spent fuel storage facility of José Cabrera Nuclear Power Plant). Twelve years ago I started my career as civil servant in the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre.

How long have you been in your position and what are your responsibilities?

I have been 8 years in the Euratom Coordination Unito of the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre in Brussels. My responsibilities consist in coordinating JRC activities in the domains of nuclear safety, management of spent fuel and radioactive waste, and decommissioning. These activities have a twofold character: On the one hand, research, with a very strong experimental contribution from our laboratories, and on the other hand, scientific and technical support to other European Commission’s Directorates-General responsible for nuclear energy political initiatives, such as those reflected in Euratom Council Directives on nuclear safety, on the safe and responsible management of radioactive waste and spent fuel, and on the Basic Safety Standards for the protection against the dangers of ionising radiation. We are a small but active team.

The Joint Research Centre, which by the way has also competence in many other (non-nuclear) scientific disciplines is spread over six sites in five different European countries: Ispra (Italy), Karlsruhe (Germany), Geel and Brussels (Belgium), Seville (Spain) y Petten (The Netherlands). Our nuclear-related activities are carried out in all the sites except in Sevilla. This geographical diversity requires an additional effort of coordination. My responsibilities also include international cooperation with Member States’ and third countries’ research entities, as well as with International Organisations.

Before joining my current post in Brussels, I worked for four years in our site of Petten in operating experience feedback, management of the spent fuel of the High Flux Reactor, EU nuclear stress tests, and support to EU outreach activities in nuclear safety and radioactive waste management.

What are your main activities in your current post?

My main activities consist in drafting and reviewing documents and reports, internal meetings in our different sites and external with our stakeholders, participating in working groups, evaluation panels, steering committees of research projects or of collaboration agreements, chairing expert groups, international meetings, conferences and other events, duty trips, etc. My current work includes a combination of technical, administrative, management, negotiation and representation tasks. It is a very appealing mix of facets for a technically oriented professional.

How did the move influence your family and personal life?

The first move from Spain to the Netherlands, twelve years ago was a very important one. From living in Boadilla del Monte and work in Madrid to  live in Bergen, a picturesque Dutch village with some 30000 inhabitants and work in a research centre 70 km north of Amsterdam, close to the North Sea cost. To the differences between Spain and the Netherlands, the contrasts between a large city and a small village added up. My children were very young, and adapted swiftly to a new country, and to their classes in English. My wife learned Dutch, and I adapted to work in a different language in a public entity. Although it was not always easy, I belive that the change was fantastic for the family.

The second move was in an opposit direction: from the cosy Dutch village with a great quality of life to Brussels. From a small school, almost a family school in English you could reach by bike to a huge school with the main subjects taught in Spanish. The move, with its troubles has been very positive, and as the children were older, we had the advantages of a larger community and with more opportunities. I think that we have become more resilient in the family, and we deal with the challenges with a pragmatic optimism that helps us to be happier.

In both places I have had the opportunity to liaise with other Spaniards I have met either through work, or through the school, and with whom we enjoy very pleasant moments.

Manuel Martín Ramos and his wife Isabel Núñez Conde

What are the most notable aspects of your work?

I would highlight as most notable aspects the Europeanism and its nature of public service, of contribution to improving our lives as European citizens. There are many other interesting and appealing aspects, such as a very diverse combination of nationalities and professional profiles, the experience of contributing to some of the initiatives of the European Union, and witnessing how are they negotiated, the large number of entities with which we collaborate, from Member States, third countries and International Organisations. But if I have to choose the most relevant, I would take, as I said before, the Europeanism and its character of public service, aspects that I assert every time I have the opportunity to do it.

 What do you miss from Spain?

I miss my family, epecially my parents and my brothers, my friends (although some of my closest ones live abroad as well, and I would continue missing them), and Madrid. Everything I miss is related to these three elements. We bring everything else (there is always place for some ibéricos from Salamanca and Extremadura in our luggage) or we buy it here.   In previous years we somehow compensated what we miss with frequent travels to Spain, but since almost one year, and due to the pandemic, it is being very difficult. I look forward to the improvement of the situation.

Manuel e Isabel under the Atomium in Brussels

Would you recommend to widen professional horizons abroad?

For us it has been undoubtly a very good choice. Very enriching both at personal and at professional levels. I would indeed recommend it, but I understand that there is no one-size-fits-all, and honestly it is not so easy to leave your country, your family and your friends. Each one should consider one’s circumstances and decide as appropriate. Spain is a great country, with very interesting professional opportunities. What is important, in my opinion, is to be able to choose, and to be able to choose you need to be prepared (also in languages) in case you come across an opportunity, and you want to take it.

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