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Career Profile

Sarah Jane Eaton

Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
Sarah Eaton headshot
Sarah Eaton headshot
Location Born
Location Now
Education Pathway

I lead a team that is responsible for licensing small modular reactors.

About me

I was born/grew up in: I was born in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

I now live in: I live in Ottawa, Ontario.

I completed my training/education at: I have both a Master’s and a Bachelor's degree in Earth Science from Memorial University in Newfoundland.

What I do at work

I work for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. Our job is to make sure that all nuclear activities that take place in Canada are done safely. Most people don’t realize that there is a lot of nuclear activity across Canada. We have uranium mines, nuclear power plants, and places that store nuclear waste. We also have research reactors and places that make fuel for nuclear power plants. Most hospitals use radiation and radioactive materials for testing and for treatments.

In my group, we are responsible for the safety of small modular reactors (SMRs). SMRs are like conventional nuclear power plants, but they are smaller and can use different fuels. Our group reviews all the documents provided by the company that wants to build the SMR. We make sure the design is safe and follows our rules and regulations. We also make sure that the finished site can be operated safely. We write recommendations to our Commission, who are our decision makers.

My career path is

In high school I was not an A student. I was a consistent B student. I never won any scholarships and was not recognized as a top performer. I maintained my B level marks throughout my Bachelor's degree. However, I started to find other ways to "prove my worth" other than grades. My advice is to say Yes whenever you can to cool opportunities. In university, I had the chance to work on two research projects. In one I sailed from Atlantic Canada to the coast of Bermuda to the coast of Greenland. In the other, I worked at a remote field camp in Labrador (where I went to and from work in a helicopter).

After this I took a chance and moved to Saskatchewan to become a mines inspector for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. It was an amazing experience! I travelled to so many remote communities, met amazing people, and learned so much about Indigenous culture and experiences. It was hard to leave my family and move to a place where I was alone. However, it allowed me to push myself to be an expert in the work I do and to learn about everything about the nuclear industry. This has been very rewarding and has helped me progress throughout my career at the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

I am motivated by

I lead a team of experts. I'm a geologist by training. I'm not a nuclear physicist or nuclear engineer. What I've learned from both school and through my work experiences is the importance of asking questions. So, while I may not know the complex engineering behind a SMR design, I know when to ask questions. I also know how to understand the concept well enough that I can help our team communicate that to the public, and our Commission. Being able to make technical information understandable and accessible to the public is one of the favorite parts of my job. I’m happy when my work helps people understand the nuclear industry and the role of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.

How I affect peoples’ lives

Ensuring safety is such a great job! Our staff makes sure the public is protected. This has such amazing value. We do our best to engage with Indigenous communities and nations and other local communities. We engage with anyone interested in learning how we keep nuclear safe.

Outside of work I

I have a young family, so we spend a lot of time outdoors playing, swimming, biking, hiking and making forts. Currently I am trying to train for my first half marathon. I've done some triathlons, but a half marathon would be a first.

My advice to others

Careers in science and the nuclear industry are very fulfilling. There are so many cool jobs that I had no idea existed until I started inspecting nuclear facilities.

When I was a student, I enjoyed:
  • Foreign Languages
  • Science
  • Computer Science
  • Music
When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:
  • Brought people together
  • Liked helping people
  • Organized activities for my friends
  • Played on a sports team
  • Liked reading
  • Always threw the best parties
  • Wasn't sure what I wanted to do
  • Learned best "by doing"

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