The worldwide nuclear industry faces challenges in recruiting and retaining staff as industries compete for well educated and skilled nuclear experts. If employers in the nuclear industry understand the interests and expectations of potential employees were, they will know better how to attract them.

This article presents results of a survey conducted jointly by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Energy (JRC/IE) which manages the European Human Resources Observatory for the Nuclear Energy Sector (EHRO-N), and Careers International Group (CI) which organises international recruitment events for the nuclear industry.

An electronic survey of eight questions was sent to local branches of Women in Nuclear and ENS Young Generation. It reached around 1200 potential respondents of whom 622 responded in the last quarter of 2010. In five questions (3, 5, 6, 7, 8), respondents are allowed to select more than one answer, so percentages sum to greater than 100%.

The objective of the survey was to get feedback from young nuclear engineering students and professionals on their career orientations and expectations. This will assist the EHRO-N organisation, which is developing a systematic approach to following the developments and trends in relation to the supply and demand of human resources in the nuclear energy sector of the European Union.


The 622 respondents were split fairly evenly between final year nuclear engineering students, graduates with up to two years of professional experience and professionals with over two years of professional experience (figure 1).

Responses came from across the global nuclear estate with the EU best represented (Figure 2). Two thirds say they are ready to work anywhere in the world (figure 4). Within the respondent groups, graduates were most prepared to go anywhere in the world to work (65%). The highest percentage of respondents wishing to work only in Europe, only in the EU, or only in specific countries, were professionals.

The most popular fields of work are reactor core design, thermal hydraulics, simulation and modelling (figure 5).

Research institutions, followed by international agencies topped the list of types of nuclear stakeholders for whom they most wanted to work. (figure 6). Asked their field(s) of interest according to their knowledge, experience and professional interests Engineering came in as the first choice by far, followed by R&D.

Nearly two thirds of the respondents want to work in the nuclear sector, while nearly a third said it did not matter whether they worked in the nuclear sector or outside it (figure 8). Within the respondent groups, more students would work only in the nuclear sector than graduates or professionals, although almost the same share of students, graduates and professionals report thinking about working outside the nuclear sector.

About five percent are considering working outside the nuclear sector. Their reasons for leaving included:

  • Keeping options open as the economic climate is severe
  • Salary and availability of positions
  • Nuclear research area is strongly limited by priorities of government or company, preventing individual or small-group work
  • Difficulty in finding a job, both in nuclear industry and in basic engineering
  • Lack of nuclear power plants in respondent’s home country
  • Preference to work in renewables, hydro or environmental sectors
  • Observation that the industry seems to be in turmoil and lacks a clear path forward.

Selected new courses

Selected new courses
Educational courses in civil nuclear power and nuclear engineering continue to grow. Although some offer research elements and can lead to a traditional PhD, others are intended to leaven the expertise of a scientist with business, or that of a businessman with technical coursework. Examples include:
The European Nuclear Energy Leadership Academy in Munich is launching its first one- year full-time course in September 2012. The course is intended for students who already hold a master’s degree, or have up to five years’ professional education. The organisation has been set up by utilities Areva, Axpo, EnBW, E.on, URENCO and Vattenfall.
A new MPhil one-year degree in nuclear energy starts in October 2011 at the UK’s Cambridge University. The one-year course is open to students with a good bachelors’ degree in engineering or related science subject. The course is heavy on research and requires a thesis.
Applications for the next two-year suburban Paris-based Nuclear Energy Master course opened in December 2010. The course, hosted by several Paris universities including Université Paris Sud 11, has been set up with support from EDF, Areva and GDF Suez (the first year is conducted in French). The course, which includes a five-month work placement, is open to students with a science bachelor’s degree.
A consortium of European universities and utilities including EDF, Vattenfall, EnBW and nuclear contractor Areva, KIT InnoEnergy, is offering 20 scholarships for the European Master in Innovation in Nuclear Energy (EMINE) course. The course combines technical training with business coursework at the Grenoble Ecole de Management. The two-year starts at either Stockholm, Sweden or Barcelona, Spain, and continues in Grenoble or Paris, France. The second year appears to share some elements with the Nuclear Energy Master course. Applications are open until the end of May 2011.
The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) runs postgraduate certificates in nuclear governance and in nuclear safety in West Cumbria. UCLan is also launching a unique MSc in Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards, which should interest organisations in countries planning to develop nucler power. It also runs foundation degrees in engineering (nuclear) for new recruits, apprentices and mature learners working in the industry Course material covers engineering, safety,management and behavioural skills.
-Will Dalrymple


Figure 5: Field of interest
Figure 6: Preferred employer type
Figure 7: Preferred department