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Q&A: The UK Nuclear Power Industry

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Gillian Gill, Fircroft’s Business Manager at our Whitehaven office, specialises in recruiting for roles in the power and energy sectors. Here she discusses the UK nuclear power industry, and jobs available in the sector.
What does the UK nuclear industry currently look like?
Although current markets are very challenging, the nuclear sector is continuing to prosper. Nuclear power will continue to be a key part of our low-carbon energy mix alongside renewable generation and carbon capture and storage. All of these technologies are important in tackling climate change and diversifying our supply, contributing to the UK’s energy security and growth.

The country has full fuel cycle facilities including major reprocessing plants. Furthermore, the UK has implemented a very thorough assessment process for new reactor designs and their siting. Overall, the nuclear industry in the UK continues to develop and grow, with numerous quality procedures being put in place.

How many nuclear power stations are there in the UK?

16 operational nuclear reactors at nine plants (14 advanced gas-cooled reactors (AGR), one pressurised water reactor (PWR), and one Magnox), as well as a nuclear reprocessing plant at Sellafield. These collectively generate 18% of the UK’s electricity and all but one of these will be retired by 2023.

Which nuclear sites does Fircroft recruit for?

The Cumbria and Warrington nuclear teams recruit both contract and permanent personnel for Sellafield, LLWR (Drigg), Dounreay (DSRL), Capenhurst, Springfields, Risley, Wylfa and Trawsfynndd nuclear licensed sites.

In regards to nuclear new builds, what does this mean in terms of job opportunities?
Two of the proposed new build developments highlighted below will provide the UK with a combined total of approximately 46,000 jobs throughout construction to operational phase.

  • Europe’s biggest new nuclear power complex in West Cumbria, “Moorside”, has moved a stage further with an agreement between new partners in NuGen, the construction consortium. The project is forecast to provide 21,000 jobs during its construction and operational phases for a wide range of contractors.
  • EDF Energy plans to build two new reactors at Hinckley Point, “Hinckley Point C”, in Somerset next to the existing Hinckley point A & B power stations. Point A is being decommissioned and Point B is operational. Around 25,000 new employment opportunities will be created throughout the build for nearly 10 years.

How does the nuclear industry differ from other power sectors?

The nuclear industry workers have to work under rigorously highly regulated standards, normally requiring security clearance before employment can commence on any of the sites. This can sometimes take up to three months to obtain, therefore an initial start in the sector can take up to 12 weeks.

However, it is important to recognise that the nuclear sector will also look favourably upon transferable skills and experience gained within other safety critical industry sectors. These include, but are not limited to; defence, oil and gas, petrochemical, aviation, rail and asbestos management. Candidates with experience in these sectors will require less work to meet the standards required than those starting from scratch.

How much energy does nuclear provide for the UK?

Of the nine currently operating nuclear plants in the UK, EDF Energy operates eight with a combined capacity of almost 9,000 megawatts. In addition to this, Wylfa power station is run by Magnox Ltd, totalling 10,038 MW across all UK nuclear plants.

How long has Fircroft worked on roles in the nuclear industry?
Fircroft has worked on nuclear requirements for 15 years+, which over the years has enabled us to build and establish strong relationships and key accounts with many of our nuclear clients. Our initial introduction on a large scale was as part of a consortium of four agencies called the “TCP Alliance”. This provided all agency supplied workers to Sellafield Ltd formerly known as British Nuclear Fuels Ltd.
What does the future look like for nuclear power in the UK?
The UK Government have confirmed that eight sites are suitable for new nuclear power stations by 2025, and all are the sites of existing nuclear plants. Five of the sites have been acquired by new build developers. The first of some 19 GWe of new-generation plants are expected to be on line by 2023, and the government aims to have 16 GWe of new nuclear capacity operating by 2030.

To view our latest nuclear jobs, click here.
Q&A: The UK Nuclear Power Industry - Time to read 4 min
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