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Quality Control and Assurance in the UK Nuclear Industry

Updated: Dec 3, 2022

Next to safety, quality within the nuclear industry is of paramount important and in a lot of ways differentiates the UK nuclear industry from the rest. In fact, quality if inextricably linked the safety and you will often hear the terms EHSQ, QHSE and other derivatives of Health, Safety, Quality and Environment to designate a single function.

The time, effort and skills that go into ensuring the quality of anything that is produced for the industry is the main reason why the costs of projects in the industry have had a tendency to increase and the duration's extend. This can be analysed in two ways; firstly there is a need to ensure that quality is inherent in anything that is used in the industry - we do not want to question the integrity of a stainless steel section of a grapple that is citing a 55te flask carrying raw nuclear material! Secondly, the industry of late is being challenged more and more to question some of the onerous quality requirements to reduce lead times and costs of projects.

It should be noted here that none of these challenges are to the detriment of the overall integrity of the solution being provided. Quality is something that the UK Nuclear Industry is world class and should be very proud and should never put into disrepute.

So, what roles are there available in the UK nuclear industry? This is easiest understood by breaking the function down into two distinct areas Quality Assurance and Quality Control.

Quality Assurance Jobs in the UK Nuclear Industry

Roles include Quality Assurance Manager (or just Quality Manager) and derivatives of Quality Engineer. Other key roles include documentation engineer and lift-time records clerk.

Nuclear Quality Control

To give you a flavour a recent advertisement for a Quality Manager listed the responsibilities of the role as being to manage the entire Quality Management lifecycle, leading, training, directing, driving teams of commercial and engineering professionals with the required skills and experience of having a proven QMS background, experience of implementing risk assessments, HSE, quality and safety related project plans with a degree in relevant engineering subject with an industry recognised quality accreditation. Sector (nuclear) experience is also listed as key here.

Job advertisements such as this may make you feel like running for the hills and is in a lot of occasions the reasons why many nuclear projects are delayed when trying to recruit. However, if you break this down you need a degree and/or relevant quality accreditation(s) with previous experience and knowledge - if you are confident that a managers roles is for you you'll already tick these boxes. The last point of note is the specific nuclear experience - this is covered in a separate post but be assured that this is not a stumbling block to landing the role; if it is the UK Nuclear Industry will come to a standstill as there is too much work with not enough SQEP people.

In comparison a Quality Engineering role advertised at the time of writing is describing the role one that work directly for the Quality Manager to analyse customer requirements, review and check quality records for customer end of manufacturing report, experience of concession management, compilation of EoMR, creation of MITPs, writing of QAP, manage document submissions to customer. Again reference is made to previous nuclear experience being "ideal".

Not as onerous as requirements as the Quality Manager for obvious reasons and again previous experience doing similar work even in a different industry will put you in with a good chance to land the role - do not be put off by the nuclear experience.

Quality Control Jobs in the UK Nuclear Industry

Roles revolve around:

  • Verifying material certification

  • Production and approval of Welding Procedures and Welder Qualifications

  • Inspection during the manufacturing phase and production of supporting documentation

  • NDT procedure and qualification verification

  • Final dispatch inspection before release of the item

Job advertisements will look for knowledge and experience in the required above as well as potentially more project specific experience dependant upon the type of work and sometimes the customer as many of them have their own quality requirements that are to be met on a contract that they let.

All of the above roles are required if other industries in the UK outside of the nuclear industry and there are many transferrable skills. Minimum requirements for the roles are usually - but will differ dependant upon the work - HNC/HND or degree level education, ISO9001:2008 training or at least working towards and ideally you'd be an associate or member of the Chartered Quality Institute. As discussed in other posts nuclear sector experience will always be sited as ideal but this is no reason to be put off in applying for roles particularly if you tick all of the other boxes above.

Graduate Quality Engineer Jobs in the UK Nuclear Industry

We are starting to see more and more key companies in the industry looking to recruit graduates to bring in early and train up as part of a chartered CGI scheme to try and redress the balance with the issues associated with the current number of SQEP resources in the industry.

Nuclear Quality Assurance

The pre-requisites for being able to apply for and gain a place on the grade schemes include having at least a 2:2 BEng (Hons), MEng (Hons) or BSc (Hons) in Civil or Structural Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Quality management or similar related discipline, experience within an engineering or construction environment and eligibility to work and live permanently in the UK. Don't be put off if you have zero experience as this is a graduate role after all.

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