The challenge of recruiting a rapidly growing nuclear workforce

08 September 2023

The planned expansion of nuclear energy across the world means many more workers will be needed in the sector. Panellists at World Nuclear Symposium gave their views on the best ways to recruit staff, and a new mentoring initiative was announced.

(Image: World Nuclear Association)

The session heard from moderator, Tamer Albishawi, chief nuclear officer at Hinkley Point C in the UK, that a recent report had forecast that the current 64,000-strong nuclear workforce in the UK would need to more than treble to around 200,000 people in the next decade. "So there is a gap, and my honest opinion is that maybe there is a bigger gap than some of us can see," he said.

Shaima Al Mansoori, director, Education & Training, UAE Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR), said there was a similar picture in other countries reflecting a need to expand recruitment across the world. She broke down the competencies into three categories beyond general attributes - such as integrity - that would be wanted from all recruits. The three categories were firstly, the generic skills from university graduates, the second was specialisation within the nuclear-related field, for example in the regulatory field. The final category, which might not yet be for large numbers, but which are required now, are skills related to new types of reactors and small modular reactors with "most countries going in that direction".

Shaima Al Mansoori, right, and Callum Thomas (Image: World Nuclear Association)

Callum Thomas, the founder and CEO of Thomas Thor Associates, a recruitment, executive search and HR consulting organisation for the nuclear industry, said a one-size-fits-all recruitment policy did not work and "you need to look at different target audiences ... looking at what motivates people". For example, he said, people beginning their career were especially motivated "by the purpose, meaningfulness of the industry, so with nuclear, they resonate really strongly with climate change and energy security". With mid-career people flexibility - in terms of location and hours, especially since the pandemic - was often important, while the "fairly new" late-career demographic of people who could have retired, often place extra value on the flexibility to work part-time while also being motivated by the idea of making a meaningful contribution.

Zhang Fengping (Image: World Nuclear Association)

Zhang Fengping, Deputy Director of the Maintenance Department, Sanmen Nuclear Power Company, said that in China there were currently 24 units under construction with 6 to 8 units set to be approved per year in the next decade so there will be a continuing large demand for more human resources in the years ahead. He highlighted the use of emerging technology - such as automation and automated wireless radiation monitoring - and how it could bring extra safety and efficiency. He added that there was a focus on training and retraining with the new technologies and he did not see it as being a problem for the modern generation.

Grace Stanke, who is a nuclear engineering student and, as Miss America 2023, has been an advocate for nuclear, said that emerging technologies "add that excitement and that interest" for younger people who "just want to do good, they want to do better - I think the resounding theme is that we're very mission-oriented ... one of the most important things to me is what does that company actually do? What is the end goal? How are they making the world a better place?

Grace Stanke gave the views of young people considering career options (Image: World Nuclear Association)

Albishawi recalled that when he had joined the industry he was told that it was a "job for life ... but now if you said that, I think it would scare people". Fellow panelists agreed, with Stanke saying that her contemporaries going through recruitment processes now do not want to become "just another cog, they want to be heard and listened to".

The session also saw the announcement of a new global mentoring initiative which is due to be formally launched by Women in Nuclear Global (WIN-Global) in November. Thomas said that it was open to everyone in the sector, regardless of level or gender, and "this is a first call to the industry to attract mentors and mentees". Anyone interested can sign up to become a WIN-Global member, for free, and will be sent information on the mentoring programme.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News