Director General Nuclear

Vanessa Nicholls


Vanessa has spent most of her 20 year civil service career focusing on security and law enforcement. Her previous posts include Director of Crime and Drugs Strategy in the Home Office, a secondment to the Metropolitan Police (Met) as Strategy Director and, as part of what was Department for Energy & Climate Change (DECC), Director for Civil Nuclear Security, Emergency Planning and Non-proliferation, as well as nuclear decommissioning, including Sellafield.

Vanessa initially joined the Civil Service Fast Stream in the Department for Education (DfE) after spending the early part of her career at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and then a secondary school in North London. She moved from DfE to spend 3 years in the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, pursuing an interest in good government. Whilst at the Met, Vanessa volunteered for 4 years as a Special Constable, patrolling regularly in the West End of London.

Director General Nuclear

The Director General Nuclear is responsible for leading the Defence Nuclear Organisation, which acts as the focal point and sponsor for the Defence Nuclear Enterprise, from strategy to delivery.

The principal function of Defence Nuclear is to support the delivery of the continuous at sea deterrent (CASD) keeping safe and capable submarines at sea today and in the future providing the UK’s strategic nuclear deterrent and supporting global security.


  • coordination of nuclear policy across the enterprise and supporting national level decision making on nuclear related matters
  • sponsor for the Submarine Delivery Agency
  • supporting ministerial engagement with Parliament, the public, and the media on the nuclear deterrent and the wider nuclear enterprise
  • management of the nuclear equipment programme
  • engagement with US and French government bodies and agencies on nuclear cooperation

Previous roles

Director General, Public Spending and Finance 2014 to 2017

Ministry of Defence and Defence Nuclear Organisation

Previous roles in government

  • Chief Operating Officer, Operations Group