Friday, 19th April 2019


Nuclear science can cover a wide range of specific industries and professions. As an industry it fits in as part of the broader science-based sector also including pharmaceuticals, chemicals and energy sources. With 20% of the UK’s electricity being sourced from nuclear power, 19 generation reactors and 15 nuclear-powered submarines in action, there is still great demand for nuclear engineers.

Nuclear engineers can use their skills to specialise in any of the different departments of nuclear science. Some of the work is research-based whilst other areas focus more on analysis and development.

The different parts of the nuclear industry include:

  • Process - developing new products, fuels, technology and nuclear plants
  • Decommissioning - the growth area of the industry, working to clear up and safely close old nuclear plants and sites
  • Research and education - studying the nature of nuclear energy, its dangers and hazards, and providing information and advice on the use of nuclear energy

Regardless of the area a nuclear engineer works in, there are certain tasks and responsibilities that remain more or less the same across the sector. Nuclear science is complex and exact, there is advanced technology that needs to be utilised and operated, and many strict health and safety regulations to follow.

Typical tasks of any nuclear engineer may include some of the following:

  • Researching and developing new fuels and technologies
  • Running and operating nuclear plants and sites safely
  • Fuel reprocessing
  • Measuring radiation levels
  • Managing and disposing of nuclear waste safely and efficiently
  • Planning the decommissioning of closed nuclear sites and waste products
  • Supervising power station staff and technicians
  • Monitoring the safety guidelines and site protocols
  • Attending and holding presentations

Each specific role can have very particular duties, responsibilities and entry requirements. Cogent is the sector skills council for the nuclear industry, and has a very helpful and detailed selection of job roles within each sector. For more in-depth job descriptions within the nuclear sector please visit Cogent’s Career Pathways.

There has been an increase in demand for nuclear engineers, particularly in the decommissioning and research areas of the industry. Working hours and conditions also vary between different sectors.