As a nuclear engineer, you will design, build, operate, and decommission nuclear power facilities. In addition, you will work in interdisciplinary teams to build technology solutions.
Depending on your role, you may develop brand-new systems, maintain existing systems, or look for novel ways to improve the efficacy, stability, and sustainability of nuclear power plants.
Other essential responsibilities include decommissioning (shutting down) facilities and planning and executing safety procedures for the transport, storage, and disposal of radioactive material used in nuclear power plants.
Throughout your apprenticeship, you may help:
- design and build new plants and equipment
- monitor and measure radiation levels
- carry out maintenance work
- make sure that the plant structure meets legal requirements
- be responsible for security and safety
- supervise power station technicians
- plan safe methods of nuclear waste disposal.
- Apprentices within nuclear engineering may start on around £15,000 to £20,000.
- Experienced nuclear engineers can earn from £30,000 to £65,000. Some earn more.
Your schedule will vary based on the industry in which you work. For example, project management and design, research, and development professionals often work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. In addition, you may be needed sometimes to attend conferences or go abroad to meet with partners or visit areas.
Since processing plants and power plants run around the clock, work at these facilities is different. For example, weekends, evenings, and nights may be worked on a seven-day shift plan working 39 to 41 hours per week.
You could work at a power station, in a laboratory, in an office or in a control room.
You may need to wear safety clothing and use safety equipment.
Qualifications you can achieve as an apprentice nuclear engineer include:
- Level 6 Nuclear Scientist and Nuclear Engineer – Entry requirements for this level include 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship. This qualification will take 36 months to complete.
On a nuclear engineering apprenticeship, you’ll learn:
- knowledge of engineering science and technology
- maths knowledge
- knowledge of physics
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- thinking and reasoning skills
- design skills and knowledge
- analytical thinking skills
- excellent verbal communication skills
- to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications.
In the United Kingdom, private companies manage nuclear power plants, although they are subject to strict control by the Office of Nuclear Regulation for safety reasons. There are chances in the public sector, but most available roles are with large energy or construction companies.
In some other countries, the sector is entirely or mostly regulated by the government, and you may be required to apply via a Civil Service-like system.
Permanent workers and contractors may require a security clearance for specific roles.
Every company in the nuclear business will need you to maintain currency via CPD. This may be achieved by formal on-the-job training, attendance at industry conferences, or participation in off-site seminars. Among the most popular CPD courses are seminars on novel reactor designs and security issues.
The Nuclear Institute organises seminars and conferences, provides professional recognition and disseminates informative materials. Affiliate membership is offered to students and newcomers, and after accumulating sufficient experience, you may advance to Fellow status (FNucl).
In addition, the Nuclear Institute partners with the Engineering Council to help specialised engineers achieve chartered engineer (CEng) status. This entails registering with the Engineering Council, the regulatory body for engineers in the United Kingdom so that your training and competence are recognised. Visit Nuclear Institute: Chartered Engineer to learn more about the benefits of earning professional recognition.
Additionally, the Nuclear Industry Association provides CPD opportunities.
As your job grows, you may return to school part-time if you entered the industry as an apprentice, HNC/HND holder, or bachelor’s degree holder.
Typical, the starting point into nuclear engineering is as an apprentice, and there is a well-defined progression path within firms. However, because there is so much to learn, you are more likely to experience gradual but steady career advancement.
It is possible to progress by transferring to a job with a new employer at a higher level.
You can move into related fields, such as dealing with radioactive materials in health or industry, nuclear imaging technologies, space exploration, or non-nuclear engineering.
There is a danger of becoming too specialised to move to a comparable job; thus, you should continually monitor factors that protect you in the case of a market crisis. These include attaining the title of incorporated (IEng) or chartered (CEng) engineer and maintaining a vast professional network across the engineering industry.