Laurent Cassai

Our interviewee for this installment of People in NDE is NDT Engineer Laurent Cassai, who recently set up his own company, ElephaNT.

Briefly describe your current role in NDE.
I am an NDT Engineer and work mostly in the nuclear industry. For example, I have recently helped the Inspection Validation Centre at AMEC Foster Wheeler with the validation of the 10-year in-service inspection of the Sizewell B Reactor Pressure Vessel. But I am fortunate enough to have had good experience in other industries, such as aerospace and manufacturing. That’s one of the advantages of NDT – it applies to a lot of fields.

Why did you choose NDE?
It definitely happened the other way around. I remember turning up to my first job interview and not having a clue what it involved. I didn’t even realise ‘plant’ was referring to a nuclear site – I was expecting something more ‘organic’. I probably shouldn’t admit it, but it still makes me smile today. That’s what happens when you study astronomy – you kind of end up a bit lost among the stars and forget the real world. I am quite thankful that my interviewers were open-minded enough to realise that I had the correct skills. NDT people are usually nice like that.

What education/training route did you follow? What other roles/jobs have you had in the past?
I studied telecommunication and network in France and finished with an MSc in computing and information technology from Liverpool John Moores University. I think coming to the UK made me realise I should study a subject that I enjoy rather than one that would land me a job. So, I decided to start from scratch and did a BSc in physics with astronomy at Liverpool University. After that, as I said, NDT chose me and it has kept me entertained ever since. I joined Serco as a graduate and went on to work for Peak NDT as an Ultrasonics Testing (UT) Application Engineer. I have recently created my own company, ElephaNDT. Hopefully, I will be able to make it grow and offer NDT services and products on a large scale in the future.

What would you consider to be your biggest achievements and challenges to date?
I think having played a key role in the delivery of an entire inspection system for the space launch vehicle Ariane 5 has got to be my biggest challenge and achievement. It is mind-blowing to think that something that big can be sent into space. Having touched and walked inside the boosters before they get to space is a great feeling. I will never thank Peak NDT enough for giving me that work experience and for their help and the trust they put in me.

Do you have any interesting NDE stories to tell? Any career highlights?
Having spent quite a bit of time abroad during my career, I think that the most interesting stories seem to happen abroad. Witnessing another culture can really be an eye opener. I was very impressed at how hardworking people are in China.

What changes, if any, do you foresee for NDE in the future? 
I don’t think we will see as many new techniques emerging as in the past. It seems to me to be more about deploying existing techniques wisely. For example, more portable and natural interaction with equipment to help concentrate on what NDT should be, which is providing strong evidence of condition. 

NDE is rarely considered a ‘hot topic’ and does not receive much media attention – what do you think about this?
The lack of media coverage doesn’t help to bring people to the industry but I think it gets the attention it deserves – how can a small group attract the media’s eye? It’s a Catch 22.

How would you describe NDE/NDT to someone who knows little or nothing about it?
It is really hard – I tend to describe its purpose rather than the techniques. It is all about assessing if an object is still fit for what it was intended. Most people understand the concept of radiography and that helps a bit.

What is your favourite NDE technique and why? If you could inspect any structure/component, what would it be? 
Ultrasonic testing by far. I think I might have already inspected the component when I worked on Ariane 5. I guess if SpaceX makes it to Mars I will be very flattered to know I played my part in it.

What is your involvement with BINDT?
I have only joined the Institute recently but I would love to help resurrect the North West Branch, which ought to be active.

Please get in touch if you have any recommendations for future interviewees or would like to be interviewed yourself. Contact the editor at or email Maria Felice direct at

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