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Job Photographs

  • Inside a large nuclear power station.

    Nuclear engineers design and develop the equipment and processes used to produce nuclear power.

  • Two people, wearing hard hats and high visibility jackets, are crouching on the ground outside.  They are working on some long metal strips, on the ground of a nuclear plant.

    Checking the safe decommissioning of part of a nuclear plant.

  • Two people are inspecting various, long metal pillars.  They are wearing blue lab coats.

    Carrying out a quality control procedure in the plant where fuel assemblies are manufactured.

  • Four people are sitting at desks, in a large office.  They are using computers.  They are wearing blue uniforms, and one of them is wearing a hard hat.

    Computers are used to monitor and analyse the safety and efficiency of power production.

  • A woman is sitting in front of a glass window, holding two joysticks.  She is working a small robot arm, which is behind the glass window, in a sealed room.

    Nuclear engineers have to observe strict safety procedures when dealing with nuclear waste.

  • Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear Engineer

Introduction

As a Nuclear Engineer, you will be involved in the production of electricity from nuclear energy. You'll develop technology, design nuclear plants, supervise the manufacture of nuclear equipment and operate nuclear installations. You will also be involved in environmental monitoring, radioactive waste management and decommissioning (closing down) installations.

Also known as

  • Atomic Engineer
  • Engineer, Nuclear

Video: - Luke: Nuclear Chemistry Technician

Video: - Luke: Nuclear Chemistry Technician

Video: - Luke: Nuclear Chemistry Technician

Work Activities

As a Nuclear Engineer you might work in a central control room, where you will operate and monitor all the essential plant systems on a round-the-clock basis.

You will deal with routine operations such as starting up and shutting down the plant. You must deal with emergency situations and plant faults.

You will be responsible for managing a wide range of important electro-mechanical systems, including boilers, turbines, fuelling machines, diesel emergency electrical generators and seawater cooling pumps.

You will also be responsible for maintaining a safe environment in the installation and the wider area. You must consider possible accident scenarios and ensure that suitable systems and working practices are in place to minimise risk.

An important part of your role is to make sure that all staff are properly trained and aware of safety procedures.

As a Nuclear Engineer, you will learn how to manage the process by which nuclear power plants are shut down for routine maintenance and inspection. These periods are known as outages.

You must make sure that the installation, testing and commissioning of all machinery and systems meet time, budget and quality targets. Some Nuclear Engineers are responsible for business plans and financial budgets.

If necessary, you'll design new equipment or systems, using computer-aided design (CAD) technology.

Other long-term work involves planning ways to close down and make safe redundant nuclear reactors and other installations - this is called decommissioning.

As a Nuclear Engineer, you might need to consider how to retrieve, treat and store any waste from the site. At the start of a decommissioning project, you'll evaluate all the options, leading to a timetable, budget and risk-assessment strategy.

Environmental safety and radiological protection are essential concerns for Nuclear Engineers. You'll advise on all aspects of radioactive waste management.

It's vital that the containers are secure and made from the right materials, to stop the radioactive waste from leaking.

Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.

Personal Qualities and Skills

To become a Nuclear Engineer, you need:

  • excellent engineering knowledge
  • a logical, methodical and thorough approach to solving problems
  • good teamworking skills to support colleagues
  • to be able to communicate well with other Engineers and Scientists
  • to be committed to protecting the safety of the public and the environment
  • to be willing to learn and develop new knowledge, as well as keep up to date with environmental issues and public concerns about nuclear safety
  • to be responsible for planning timetables and budgets and have strong organisational and written skills
  • the ability to stay calm and work well under pressure
  • a disciplined and methodical approach to a safe working environment
  • numerical skills
  • strong computer skills to use, and in some cases to develop, a wide range of sophisticated computer technology

You'll probably lead and train maintenance teams, so you should be able to encourage and motivate others.

Normal colour vision is usually required for this job.

Pay and Opportunities

Pay

The pay rates given below are approximate.

  • Starting: £30,000 - £33,000
  • With experience: £37,000 - £45,500
  • Senior Nuclear Engineers earn £49,500 - £54,000

Hours of work

Nuclear Engineers usually work around 35-40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. However, many engineers in power stations work on shift rotas to provide 24-hour plant operation. You may need to start early, finish late or work weekends.

Where could I work?

Opportunities for nuclear engineers are likely to be with:

  • the electricity supply companies who operate the nuclear power stations, either at the stations or in central support
  • consultants providing technical support to the supply companies
  • construction companies that design, develop and build the power plant
  • the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority in research and consultancy work
  • companies handling radioactive materials
  • bodies overseeing the operational safety and environmental aspects of the nuclear industry

Where are vacancies advertised?

Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, trade industry publications, at Jobcentre Plus and on the Find a Job website.

Vacancies can also be found through specialist engineering recruitment agencies, internet job boards and the websites of professional engineering bodies and energy organisations.

GreenJobs is a job board aimed at people interested in green careers:

www.greenjobs.co.uk/browse-jobs/engineering/

Entry Routes and Training

Entry routes

An Intermediate Level is a great place to start. You could work your way up, via technician roles, into more senior engineering positions.

A Degree Apprenticeship is also a good way into this career.

Nuclear Engineers sometimes complete a relevant engineering or science degree, foundation degree or HND.

Nuclear Engineers come from a wide range of engineering and scientific disciplines, including mechanical, chemical, control, electrical and electronics engineering, physics, chemistry, mathematics and materials science.

A small number of degree courses are available related to nuclear engineering.

Foundation degrees may enable you to progress on to an accredited degree course.

It's also possible to take postgraduate training courses, such as those offered by the Nuclear Technology Education Consortium (NTEC).

It's essential to check college/university websites carefully to make sure the course you choose is relevant to the branch of engineering you want to follow.

A great way to get into this career is through an internship. Take a look at our information article 'Internships', for more details.

Training

Some graduates join graduate training schemes, which offer structured training and experience.

Depending on their level of entry, nuclear engineers can gain Chartered Engineer (CEng) or Incorporated Engineer (IEng) professional status. Both are highly regarded by employers throughout industry.

To register as a CEng or an IEng, you must join a relevant, professional engineering institution licensed by the Engineering Council, such as the Nuclear Institute or the Energy Institute.

To become a CEng or an IEng, you need to demonstrate the appropriate competence and commitment. The standards for this are set out in the Engineering Council's UK-SPEC document, which can be downloaded from their website.

Work Experience

Previous experience working as a Chemical Engineer would be really useful for this career.

Progression

Depending on their qualification, Nuclear Engineers can progress by taking on more responsibility for the management of engineering projects and teams of Engineers.

Some engineers choose to become self-employed or take contract work on a freelance basis.

Qualifications

To enter a relevant degree course in engineering, the usual requirement is:

  • 2/3 A levels
  • GCSEs in your A level subjects at grade C/4 or above
  • a further 2/3 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above
  • maths and a science or technology subject, eg, physics, are normally required at A level
  • English, maths and a science subject are usually required at GCSE at grade C/4 or above

Other qualifications, such as a relevant BTEC level 3 or the International Baccalaureate Diploma are often accepted. Please check college/university websites carefully.

To get onto an Intermediate Level Apprenticeship, you’ll usually need at least 2 GCSEs at grade C/4 or above, possibly including English and maths.

To get onto a Degree Apprenticeship, you will usually need at least 2 A levels.

Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A level.

Adult Opportunities

Age limits

It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.

Courses

If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (eg, Access to Engineering) could be the way in.

These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.

Distance learning

The Open University offers undergraduate degrees and postgraduate qualifications in various scientific and engineering subjects.

The University of Manchester offers an MSc in Nuclear Science and Technology, via part-time distance learning.

Training

Information on pathways to registration as a Chartered (CEng) or Incorporated (IEng) Engineer can be found on the Engineering Council's website.

Funding

Funding for postgraduate courses is available through universities from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

Further Information

Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:

  • To support their members.
  • To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.

For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.

Semta

Skills for science, engineering and manufacturing technologies

Address: 14 Upton Road, Watford, Hertfordshire WD18 0JT

Tel: 0845 6439001

Email: customerservices@semta.org.uk

Website: www.semta.org.uk

The Engineer

Engineering technology news

Email: customerservices@theengineer.co.uk

Website: www.theengineer.co.uk

Tomorrow's Engineers

Publisher: EngineeringUK and Royal Academy of Engineering

Email: contactus@tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

Website: www.tomorrowsengineers.org.uk

New Scientist

Publisher: Reed Business Information Ltd

Email: ns.subs@quadrantsubs.com

Website: www.newscientist.com

Open University (OU)

Tel: 0845 3006090

Website: www.open.ac.uk

Engineer Jobs

Publisher: Venture Marketing Group

Email: ner@vmgl.com

Website: www.engineerjobs.co.uk

Getting into Engineering Courses

Author: James Burnett Publisher: Trotman

Website: www.mpw.ac.uk/university-guides/getting-into/engineering-courses/

Scottish Engineering

Scottish enquiries

Address: 105 West George Street, Glasgow G2 1QL

Tel: 0141 2213181

Email: consult@scottishengineering.org.uk

Website: www.scottishengineering.org.uk

Engineering Council

Address: 246 High Holborn, London WC1V 7EX

Tel: 020 3206 0500

Website: www.engc.org.uk

Engineering Training Council Northern Ireland (ETC NI)

Northern Ireland Enquiries

Address: Sketrick House, Ards Business Park, Jubilee Road, Newtownards BT23 4YH

Tel: 028 9182 2377

Email: info@etcni.org.uk

Website: www.etcni.org.uk

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC)

Address: Polaris House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1ET

Tel: 01793 444000

Website: www.epsrc.ac.uk

Cogent Skills

Science industries

Address: Unit 5, Mandarin Court, Centre Park, Warrington, Cheshire WA1 1GG

Tel: 01925 515200

Website: www.cogent-ssc.com

Energy Institute

Address: 61 New Cavendish Street, London W1G 7AR

Tel: 020 7467 7100

Email: info@energyinst.org.uk

Website: www.energyinst.org.uk

Nuclear Institute (NI)

Address: CK International House, 1-6 Yarmouth Place, London W1J 7BU

Tel: 020 3475 4701

Website: www.nuclearinst.com

Nuclear Courses

Publisher: Nuclear Institute

Website: www.nuclearcourses.com

National Skills Academy for Nuclear

Address: Unit 9, Europe Way, Cockermouth CA13 0RJ

Tel: 01900 898120

Email: enquiries@nuclear.nsacademy.co.uk

Website: www.nuclear.nsacademy.co.uk

Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships

Tel: 0800 028 4844

Website: ams.careerswales.com/

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