This article gives an overview of one of the most exciting industries in one of the most exciting countries; the UK Nuclear Industry the most exciting in the world at this moment in time. And you can become a part of it.
The nuclear industry is a great place to feed the geek in you. Whether you fully understand the intricacies of all the technologies or not, working in an industry where conversations around nuclear reactors, nuclear fusion, waste treatment, hydrogen evolution and whether the new generation of small modular reactors will ever come to fruition? You've got to admit sounds like a pretty cool place to work.
The nuclear industry has established plans and resource needs for the next 100 years. However, if we start to look more at the here-and-now and at the current demand you only need to have turned on you TV in the recent months to have heard something about the ongoing nuclear submarines work or Hinckley Point C. This is only going to continue and gain momentum in the Nuclear New Build (NNB) arena with Nu-Gen and Horizon following EDF soon who are hitting the ground running. This is fantastic as it will create masses of new job opportunities in NNB on top of the existing Defence and Decommissioning work which are due to ramp up over the next 5 years and beyond.
Outside of the obvious places to look for jobs within the industry around the three sectors and their supply chains there are opportunities within public office with the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) as well as the research centres - the Fulham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) being the most prominent and the Office for Civil Nuclear Security (OCNS).
Previously it can be said that it has been difficult to get into nuclear due to the insular approach to how the work has been determined, funded and distributed - this is particularly true over the last 20 years or so since the construction of the last nuclear power plants (NPP) in the UK in 1995 - Sizewell B. Just as the last of the previous NNB's signalled the gradual decline of work and slowing down of the industry focussing on decommissioning activities the first of the current NNB's is the catalyst for kick-starting the industry back into life creating with it a resourcing need that is unprecedented in our modern era.
This demand for new resources into the industry means that the amazing career opportunities and plethora of training and development opportunities will be broadened to meet the masses. This is great news for someone that is looking to get into nuclear as this opportunity has been closed to anyone outside of the UK nuclear industry and opens a world in which the professionalism, integrity and the quality of the work is second to none against other industries which has previously been closed. The work in the industry is based on finding solutions to the world’s most challenging questions and the plethora of people working together from the boffins in the science labs, to the geniuses producing the safety cases to the industriousness of the guys who are working out a way to be able to manufacture and construct the end solutions provides for a very rewarding work life.
All the help that you need to get into nuclear is already out there. In more structured, established terms you have the Nuclear Industry Association's (NIA) website, forums, events, training as a great example of this as are the National Skills Academy for Nuclear (NSAN) website, whose support are amazing. There are also several groups such as the Nuclear Physics Group (NPG), Women in Nuclear (WiN) and Young Generation Network (YGN) which provide great support to people in the industry with similar skills, interests and working environments.
Whatever your age, education and previous experience there is sure to be a role for you within the UK nuclear industry. Let’s put it plain and simple there are not enough people entering the industry, there are too many people retiring, or due to retire, and leave the industry and there are not enough people in the middle to meet the current demands. This is definitely a seller’s market for those looking to get into the industry and sell their current skill set and experience.
Lets work it backwards to those of you are looking at the later years of your professional life. As mentioned above there is a real need for people with many year’s experience to share their experience with the younger generation and to provide consultancy to support up-skilling, advising and even delivering the work.
Those of you that are in the peak of your career there is basically too much work and not enough people. There is opportunity aplenty it is just a matter of being able to find the perfect role for yourself with your current skills and experience.
Graduates have a great opportunity to gain a place on one of the many (though not enough) graduate training schemes available with many of the key players in the industry (Sellafield Ltd, AWE, Rolls-Royce, Nuvia Ltd etc.). This is where the older generation as discussed before getting the opportunity to brain-dump all the information that they have gained from the last couple of decades and impart this to the next generation.
Also, school/college leavers who are keen to pave out a career for themselves for life with good pay and job security there are ample courses to undertake and work experience to gain at an early age via colleges, universities and the numerous apprenticeship schemes available. As mentioned previously the nuclear industry has plans for the next 100 years so it is quite possible that the graduates of today will be the 'grey beards' of tomorrow passing on their knowledge to the next generation.
Finally...One point of contention whenever discussing the nuclear industry is the different viewpoints on the use of nuclear in the first place. The most contentious is obviously the use of, or at least owning of, a nuclear deterrent (i.e. a nuclear weapon). Additionally, many people are against the use of nuclear technology as a source of energy be that a Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) or nuclear propulsion. When considering these further it can sometimes be found that the apprehension around nuclear are not always founded and can be due to some of the history surrounding the industry that are a result of previous events (e.g. Chernobyl) or portrayals (e.g. Terminator 2). By working in the nuclear industry, you can be sound in the knowledge that there are many jobs and projects that are aimed at cleaning the environment (e.g. decommissioning) and providing a carbon free future power source (e.g. NNB). What better place to be than at the coalface successfully delivering some of the country’s most pressing work - the cleaning up of the NDA estate is a national emergency, production of new carbon free energy is a national emergency, production of a suitable deterrent to ensure our country is safe is a national emergency.
There is a lot to be said of your character for considering a role in the nuclear industry and the rewards are plentiful if you wish to fulfil one of the many roles that need to be fulfilled.