STUK employee for more than 30 years: Elina Martikka
People stay with the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) for a long time, and the average career at STUK lasts almost 15 years, indicates STUK's personnel report from last year. However, many STUK employees have continued to work at STUK for several decades. One of the long-term employees is Elina Martikka, Head of International Cooperation, whose career has been eventful and characterized by many different tasks – and constant change.
Elina started working at STUK in October 1989. A year earlier, in 1988, Elina graduated from the University of Jyväskylä, where she studied nuclear physics and mathematics. At the beginning of her studies, Elina's original plan was to become a teacher. However, educational science did not feel like her thing. After some pondering, the newly launched journalism and mass communication studies at the university ended up complementing mathematical subjects. As it happens, Elina ended up being the Information Officer at the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK), its Communications Unit at the time – in a situation where the need for information on nuclear power and interest in the subject had grown significantly with the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986.
During her STUK career, Elina has so far also worked as an inspector, Section Head, project manager, editor-in-chief of the Alara journal as well as in emergency preparedness tasks and diverse international positions. She has participated in the events of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Commission in Finland and in many countries of the world, represented Finland in various delegations together with ministries, prepared the nuclear safeguards of the world's first nuclear fuel final disposal facility and participated in the setting up of regulatory control in several countries.
Promoting world peace
After working as the Information Officer and two maternity leave, in the summer of 1994, Elina moved to the position of nuclear safeguards inspector, hardly knowing the contents of the assignment beforehand. “It just sounded so interesting,” says Elina. Finland was about to join the European Union and thereby the joint control system of the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom). In her new role, Elina was able to participate in inspection rounds with both IAEA and Euratom inspectors. The interaction and various negotiation situations inspired Elina. She learnt by doing.
“I learned a lot about international nuclear safeguards and how nuclear power plants work. I just had to learn the international agreements, such as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Safeguards Agreement and its additional protocols negotiated on the basis of it as well as the Euratom treaties, so that I knew what was being done and on what basis.”
The young inspector had a clear vision of the importance of her work. “I remember when I was at a training session where I had to tell something about myself. I said then that I wanted to do a job where I could contribute to world peace. Most listeners smiled at this. But now this statement has become a fact. The work of radiation and nuclear safety authorities can actually make the world safer.”
Changes after changes
In 1998, Elina progressed to the position of Section Head of the Safeguards Unit and was once again experiencing major changes and challenges. The IAEA Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement changed the nature of all safeguards and called for negotiations on, among other things, legislation. The Additional Protocol, which guarantees the IAEA more extensive information on activities related to the use of nuclear energy, entered into force in Finland and the EU Member States in 2004.
Elina left her position as Section Head in 2018 to focus on international activities and projects, such as leading co-operation with Saudi Arabia and coordinating international affairs. The co-operation project was launched at the beginning of 2014 with the aim of developing a competent radiation and nuclear safety authority for Saudi Arabia. Since February 2022, Elina has acted as Head of International Cooperation at STUK. The task is new and its objective is to coordinate STUK's diverse international operations and expert service tasks. Elina had only been in charge of the new unit for 24 days when the world changed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine and, at the same time, much of the unit's operations and the entire international operating environment changed.
In the early days of her career, Elina remembers how she hoped for regularity and predictability in her work. “I did not want to speak English or travel. And here I am; in international networks and projects,” says Elina.
The family is the most important supporter and inspirer
Elina’s STUK career is full of memorable events and funny stories. “Should I mention that I also met my husband in STUK's corridors?” And the work also included memorable events.
In 1995, Elina was at the Loviisa nuclear power plant as a young inspector with Euratom and IAEA representatives. “At that time, these parties had a bit of a quarrel about how things should be done and who has more decision-making power,” Elina describes. Verification of spent fuel rod elements was underway at the plant. The IAEA inspector wanted to start with the inspections from the right and the Euratom representative from the left. In the end, a representative of the Loviisa plant asked Elina what to do in this stalemate. At that point, Elina, the mother of children aged 2 and 4 at the time, came up with a suggestion: “Let's start today from the right and tomorrow from the left,” Elina said vigorously. And it worked, just like a similar diplomatic negotiation with children. Always remember what you have learnt as a parent. Elina emphasizes that although work has always been important to her, even more important is her family and the support and encouragement it provides.
At STUK, Elina feels that she has been able to do things that matter. “STUK is flexible, and it has been possible to grow and develop here and share the know-how I have accumulated and gained from others.”