M2 Report – IRSN, Felipe Ramírez

  1. Where did you do your internship and what was your role?

I did a six months internship at the IRSN (Institut de Radioprotection et de Sûreté Nucléaire) – the French nuclear protection institute. It employs around 1800 people, at the moment, in activities related to nuclear safety, regulation, research and risk management, and analysis. I worked in the Health pole, in the Nuclear Crisis Service’s Economics Lab. The internship project focused on improving the probabilistic safety analysis (PSA) code used by the IRSN to include the health risk costs caused by hypothetical nuclear accidents. The PSA code serves to estimate the distribution of nuclear accidents’ costs on different civil nuclear power plants located in France. The code uses data from nuclear reactors and an atmospheric distribution model. The model simulates the transfers of radioactive elements in the environment and computes the level of exposure for different populations. The economics analysis lab takes this exposure data and uses epidemiological models to compute the impacts of radiation on individual health. My work was to use non-market valuation methods and health economics models to come up with a monetary value (in Euros) for all the expected health effects in the exposed population. This is important for the estimation of the damage function of nuclear power production to allocate the optimum level of nuclear safety investment.

  1. How did your studies at TSE help you during the internship?

My experience at TSE helped me in various ways but I will focus on the two most important things.

First, academic knowledge acquired in TSE was essential because my internship focused on topics like environmental valuation, uncertainty, and cost-benefit analysis, which are important subjects in the ERNA program. Also, very basic microeconomics was necessary to understand certain more complicated mechanisms in the models reviewed for my project. That was very surprising because most people think that bachelor level economics models don’t do well in capturing real-life phenomena. However, at IRSN, I had the chance to see that certain behaviours are still better explained with basic micro models in practice.

Second, during the internship, I had to cooperate with people working on very different topics than economics for example meteorologists, nuclear engineers, epidemiologists etc. Moreover, we were encouraged to be proactive when organising meetings and discussing with experts. I feel that my participation in different TSE associations really helped me to develop my leadership skills and perform better during the internship.

  1. How did you get your internship? What would be your advice for students looking for a similar internship?

The internship offer was posted on the TSE alumni website. I did a phone interview and had to pass a background check before they accepted my candidacy.

I would recommend, first, that students use the extra time available in M2 compared to M1 to do research about their interests, know what topics really interest them and try to talk to their teachers and whoever contact they have about the different options in the job market. Most TSE professors have worked outside of the academic world, so they usually have very cool experiences in different sub-fields and organisations. In my opinion, it is also very important to have interesting previous internships, for example in M1. In my case, there were lots of questions about my previous work experiences during the interview, and my past experiences helped greatly. For people who have not done many internships before, it can help to talk about their work in different academic projects, like Applied Econometrics, and make a connection between their projects and what they will be asked to do during the internship they are applying to.

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