You won't find Homer Simpson generating energy or decommissioning plants in today's nuclear sector, writes Charlotte Ashley-Roberts

You won’t find Homer Simpson generating energy or decommissioning plants in today’s nuclear sector, writes Charlotte Ashley-Roberts


Charlotte Ashley-Roberts is careers specialist at the RSC

I currently work for a pharmaceutical company but am in the process of being made redundant. I am looking for security in a new position and so am looking at growing areas of chemistry. I thought of the nuclear sector as I have seen it in the news recently, do you think that would be a good move for me?   

A You are right; the nuclear sector has been in the news recently, along with other types of low-carbon power generation, with plans from the current government to create almost 250 000 jobs in low-carbon industries, including nuclear power. The UK currently has 10 nuclear power stations, which provide approximately 15-22 per cent of the country’s electricity. The nuclear industry employs over 50 000 people in the UK. Globally, nuclear power produces about 16 per cent of the world’s electricity requirements at about the same cost of energy from coal.

Approximately 15 000 well-trained, highly skilled people operate and decommission nuclear power stations in the UK and there will be a further need for scientists and engineers due to the approval for a new generation of nuclear power stations. The nuclear industry is a diverse one, covering decommissioning, generation of power, defence and processing nuclear fuel. 

Whether it would be a good move for you, I am afraid only you can answer that question but hopefully I can help you make an informed decision by providing the following information. 

Coming from the pharmaceutical industry there will be many of your skills - not least business acumen and project management - that are transferable, but you might need to do some retraining and/or get some experience in the nuclear industry. There are Masters and PhD qualifications that you can undertake to help you get some more skills to move into the nuclear sector. For a list of courses, see the Prospects Postgraduate Directory. The Energy Institute also holds lists of accredited and approved courses.

With regard to getting experience, if you know anyone who works in the sector who would let you shadow them, that would be a great start, even if only for a day. If you would like to get in touch with people who work in the industry then the RSC has a radiochemistry interest group you could get in touch with.

If you would like information about working in the nuclear industry and about finding jobs within the sector you can find out more here:

Energy zone  has information and job profiles of people in the energy sector.  

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority  (NDA) is delivering the largest, most important environmental restoration programme in Europe and has information about recruitment (and graduate schemes). 

More graduate schemes can be found at AMEC and EDF.  

Nuclear Sector Jobs was launched to facilitate the recruitment of skilled personnel to the nuclear sector. 

To find out about the skills needed in the nuclear industry go to the websites cited at the bottom of the page.

Finally, to tackle the issue of job security; gone are the days where you worked for a company for 40 years. I am afraid the world is changing, becoming more fluid in its approach to many things, not least the world of work. One of the best ways to feel more secure in your career is to take control. Make sure that you are always prepared for what may come at you whether it is keeping your CV up to date or looking for ways to improve and develop your current skills. By keeping one step ahead of the game it will help you feel secure, in your capabilities and your career.

I hope that this information will help you decide whether it is a good move for you to make and I wish you luck in your career move if you choose to go ahead.