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From Just Wanting to Build Things to being a Stalwart of the Nuclear Industry

Updated: Sep 29, 2022

Philip Isgar


Norther Nuclear Alliance

In 1975 I started as a student in Risley in the building, which is now known as Chadwick House. What is now ‘Engine Rooms’ was the canteen at this time, where I, funnily enough, undertake most of my work today over 45 years later.


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Early Years

I grew up in Leigh, left Manchester Road Secondary Modern School in the late 1960s. As part of my O'Levels, I had undertaken surveying and technical drawing and, as such, started a summertime job at a local building company. Following the summer, they offered me a job as a Trainee Engineer, in which I would gain an ONC part-time at Wigan Technical College.

Following this, I wanted to pursue a Civil Engineering Degree in 1972, which I did with the University of Bolton. During this time, I undertook two 6-month placements; the second one was with the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) in Risley. We undertook design works for BNFL (now Sellafield Ltd), Winfrith, Springfields and Dounreay during this placement. UKAEA Risley had been the Northern Division since the 1950s. I, unfortunately, couldn't get a role there immediately following my placement, so I took a post in local government. It was in 1978 that I started as a Graduate at UKAEA. The first person (Beverly) I met when entering the old E-Block on my first day for induction as a Graduate became my wife in 1982. I became a Chartered Civil Engineer first, then a Chartered Structural Engineer in 1979.

I always had an affinity for the nuclear industry as my dad, who, following being de-mobbed in 1947, moved to Leigh as he had a job in the Admiralty at Risley. Additionally, my Great-Uncle worked in the Laboratories at Risley.

Following years in Nuclear and more

In 1981, BNFL took over UKAEA Works and Buildings, the department I was working in, which allowed me to work on Sellafield Highly Active Liquor Stores, Flask Handling Building and the Magnox Encapsulation Plant, in which the project was awarded the NCE Project of the Year Award. I, personally, was awarded the Nuclear Engineering Society 30 minute paper competition award. In 1988, I was requested to support UK NIREX on Disposal works. I spent five years there until 1993, when the government of the day put the nuclear new build on hold for a generation.

After this, I used the skills that I had gained from the nuclear industry and put them to good use, supporting British Rail, Bechtel, Pell Frischman and Washington Group International. I used my skills in project management and dealing with complex safety cases to deliver significant projects of national and international importance. It was at this time that I decided to go and work for myself.

In 2007, I formed Sunbeam Management Solutions Limited and never looked back. My early roles included supporting railway projects and back in the nuclear industry, providing leadership to large bids. Nuclear is the core of my business today.

More recently, I have been working with NNL as an Executive Consultant providing specialist support as and when required. I have been supporting the BEIS Phase 2 Nuclear Innovation Programme with NNL and Jacobs. I'm now part of the UK BIM Alliance and aligned with Innovate UK. I was the Inaugural Chair of the Nuclear Institute Digital Community, being the BIM and Digital lead for Nuclear since 2013.

I'm also supporting the Northern Nuclear Alliance (NNA) as vice-Chair, working closely with Loren Jones, Cavendish Nuclear, International and Business Winning Director. I further support Cavendish Nuclear as part of Progressive within the Design Services Alliance.

In recent years, I have become an Honorary Member of the Major Projects Association, Honorary Fellow for APM and Honorary Doctor of Engineering with the University of Bolton. As part of the Institution Of Civil Engineers 200th Anniversary, I was invited to prepare a video on ‘Calder Hall’ and why I became a Civil Engineer in the Nuclear Industry. . . it’s on YouTube and is included below. I also represent APM as a voting council member on Construction Industry Council.

Why Others Should Consider A Job in the Nuclear Industry

The Nuclear Industry is more than a career. It is a community. The people that I work with are my friends, who I regularly socialise with. Anyone considering a role in the nuclear industry should appreciate how open and inviting the community is. They will build a career and friends for life.


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