How to become a Nuclear Engineer

nuclear engineer careers

What does a Nuclear Engineer do?

Nuclear engineer is a generic term for a variety of engineers using nuclear technology; they may be mechanical, electrical or chemical engineers, or nuclear physicists. Typical roles may be:

  • a reactor analyst monitoring heat transfer
  • a project engineer working on fuel usage
  • a safety analysis engineer identifying hazards
  • an information systems engineer working on control systems.
Engineers in the nuclear industry design and implement technological solutions for nuclear power stations, the pharmaceutical industry or the military. The power generation industry is the largest employer with engineers working in fuel reprocessing, decommissioning, waste management, radiological protection and safety, and station maintenance and performance.

The duties of nuclear plant engineers can include:

  • specifying new equipment
  • developing operating instructions
  • determining radiological content
  • creating disposal plans through decommissioning
  • taking responsibility for security and safety
  • supervising mechanical and electrical technicians and operatives
  • making site visits
  • attending meetings and giving presentations.

What's the working environment like working as a Nuclear Engineer?

The work may include weekends and evenings depending on priorities and deadlines. Some work on a seven-day shift system.

Engineers work in control rooms, offices and workshops but may make visits to power stations and other sites. When working with nuclear reactors protective clothing is required.

What does it take to become a Nuclear Engineer?

To be a nuclear engineer you should:

  • be interested in science and technology
  • have an analytical mind and a logical approach to problem-solving
  • have good planning and organisational skills
  • be highly numerate and have a good understanding of data analysis
  • have a proactive approach to safety
  • have managerial skills, both with people and projects
  • have good interpersonal skills and be able to work as part of a team
  • be a proficient user of office software.

Nuclear Engineer Career Opportunities

There are currently twelve operational nuclear power stations throughout the UK, both advanced gas-cooled reactors and pressurised water-cooled reactors. As there are seven decommissioned power stations, finding safe and cost-effective solutions after shut down requires a number of engineers. The main employers in nuclear power generation are British Nuclear Fuels and British Energy. See websites for further details.

There are also opportunities within military research and development, as the UK currently has fifteen nuclear powered submarines.

An increasing number of engineers now work on a freelance basis or on short- term contracts.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Nuclear Engineer that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Cogent (Sector Skills Council for Chemicals, Nuclear, Oil and Gas, Petroleum and Polymers)
Minerva House
Bruntland Road
AB12 4QL
Tel: 01224 787800

The Institution of Nuclear Engineers
Allan House
1 Penerley Road

British Nuclear Fuels

British Energy

Engineering Council
10 Maltravers Street
Tel: 020 7240 7891

SEMTA (Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682

Facts and Stats:

  • Isambard Kingdom Brunel was only 5ft tall and wore a top hat to make himself look taller
  • Engineering generates more than 40 per cent of the UK¿s national wealth
  • The Box Hill tunnel, part of Brunel¿s Great Western Railway, took five years to dig and at two miles long was the longest tunnel in the world at the time

Courses to help you become a Nuclear Engineer