Texts: Beatriz Lamela Pascua| Photos: Mariano J. Fiol
Mariano J. Fiol, born in Mallorca, has spent most of his professional career at IBERDROLA, in the Madrid offices. He is responsible for the safety engineering area and has participated in many nuclear projects for both Iberdrola and other national and international “utilities”. It is worth highlighting his participation in the TACIS and INSC projects for the European Commission, which have led him to confront curious situations in places such as Kola, Khmelnitsky, Novovoronezh, … He currently works in the offices that WANO (World Association of Nuclear Operators) has in Paris.
How many years do you carry in your current responsibility in WANO?
I joined WANO Paris Centre (WANO PC), seconded by Iberdrola Generacion Nuclear, in January 2019, i. e. I have been around a year and a half here. In principle, my secondment, is for three years. My position is Lead Engineer, within the Technology Group, a kind of design specialist.
What are the main activities of your current post?
As you know, WANO was created as a response of all the world’s nuclear companies and plants to the Chernobyl accident in 1986. My job is basically to analyze the design of a plant before the Peer Review (PR). I also participate in some Peer Review, leading the engineering area, and support other missions such as the Crew Performance Observation.
How did the transfer influence your family/personal life?
Of course, it was previously spoken and agreed at home. You know that there are many kinds of expatriates, in my case, I have only moved myself, and I make frequent trips home. Also, my wife and daughters come to Paris some weekends and holidays.ç
On the personal level, the impact is significant because it is a privilege to live in a city like Paris (well known, I am not going to go into details) and work in such an international environment. Our offices are located in the business district of La Defense and I go walking to the office, crossing the Sena through the Neuilly bridge.
Do you keep contact with other Spanish in France
The truth is, apart from some friends of my friends, I don’t have many links in Paris. In WANOPC we are about 6 or 7Spanish.Within the hispanic group, a good friendship develops quickly; so when we get together in the office, for example when it comes to eating, they call us, with some irony, the Spanish Corner.
What are the most significant aspects of your work in WANO?
Given that the mission of WANO is to maximize the safety and reliability of nuclear power stations around the world, working together to assess, benchmark and improve operation through mutual support, sharing experiences and emulation of best practices, you can imagine that the professional environment is of the most open cooperation. The whole of WANOPC staff is highly international, and although there are many French, most are not from Paris. From China to Argentina, from Finland to Spain… a total of about 140 people. On the other hand, WANO people are very open and eager to share their professional and personal experience. As an example, in WANO we have a group – the WANO walks – where one of us is responsible for designing a thematic tour, about 10 or 12 km across the city;. this takes place more or less every second Wednesday at 5 and a half, after working, and usually ends in a bistro or a brewery.
What details do you have in the absence of Spain?
Of course, in the expatriate life – or the emigrant, that many of us working in the nuclear industry have migrated from our native land – some days do walk on the side of Guermantes and others on the side of Meséglise… a few days governed by the momentum and others can get you longing, but both of them enrich your overview: you value what you have here and what you’ve left and you want to recover. In practical life, I do not miss many things, because, as I said, return to Spain once or twice a month. There are always small hobbies you have to leave in standby, but it’s not for all life either… Of course, you miss the companions you have shared much of your professional life, but you also maintain some contact, even at minimal.
For me, despite having considerable international experience, language is still a challenge: English is spoken at WANOPC in 130 different accents! Not forgetting that a large part of my coleagues are native English and they have to make an extra effort to be understood by the rest… Furthermore, when trying to learn French as well, you often make a good mess with the languages.
Do you invite young people to expand their career horizons outside our borders?
WANO supports a Young Generation initiative and about ten per cent of our staff are young talents, future nuclear leaders. But not only young people, I have been expatriated at an advanced stage of my career (so to speak…) and I do not regret to have done so. It must be understood that one of the main traits of nuclear safety culture are cooperation, sharing experiences, including best practices, continuous learning; so working with other organizations, other cultures and methods is enriching yourself at any stage of your career. Of course, all of this is accentuated when we talk about young nuclear generation.