It’s a challenging, complex, expensive but essential industry. In future, it’ll probably play a major role in a secure and affordable energy mix for the UK, because it’s a sustainable, low-carbon means of producing the power we need as a country.
Nuclear power could soon expand massively. Did you know the UK might build 12 new reactors, capable of generating huge amounts of electricity? Building and operating a nuclear power generation plant requires a lot of engineering construction skills! The sector’s 5,500 engineering construction workers make up more than 10% of the total workforce. If the expansion goes ahead there will be thousands of new long term job openings in the next ten years, with each site needing hundreds of high-skill workers for decades to come. There could be no more important role than running the UK’s nuclear installations safely and efficiently, in one of the world’s most highly regulated industries.
But that’s only half the story. Britain already operates 19 nuclear reactors at ten power stations. Even if the new reactors don’t go-ahead, about a quarter of Britain’s older existing reactors will be taken out of service by 2015 and dismantled, and by 2025 all but one of them will be closed – or ‘decommissioned’ (the word used to describe how we deal with this ‘nuclear legacy’ of old power stations).
Nuclear decommissioning is long, complex and extremely technical work, and already a £3 billion per year industry, which is set to expand the nuclear jobs market! Scotland’s Dounreay plant, for example, is one of the world’s most complex nuclear clean-ups – it started in 1994 and will run until 2038!
So this is an industry that’s already confidently recruiting the next generation of technically skilled and safety aware workers that its future depends on. It means guaranteed challenges for years to come for engineers and technicians who aim to be at the cutting edge of solving some of the world’s most important problems.