Powerful Career Paths in the Nuclear Industry

Did you know the U.S. nuclear energy industry supports approximately 100,000 quality, high-paying American jobs?

And, did you know the majority of workers employed by the nuclear energy industry are non-nuclear engineers?

There are job opportunities across the country for folks with high school diplomas to those with doctorates. Nuclear utilities and other nuclear companies employ all types of workers to support their operations – from computer engineers and plant operators to pipefitters and accountants.

Types of Careers in the Nuclear Energy Industry

Engineers Specialists Technicians and Skilled Trades Workers
Civil/structural Accountants Carpenters
Electrical Analysts Construction trades and related workers
Materials Business management experts Electricians
Mechanical Chemists Engineering technicians
Nuclear Document control experts Heavy equipment operators
Computer Health physicists Machinists
Instrumentation and control Information technology experts Maintenance technicians
Fire protection Occupational safety, including radiation safety experts Millwrights
Systems Plant operators (licensed and non-licensed) Pipefitters
Project management Statistics/probabilistic risk assessment experts Science technicians
  Training specialists Security officers
  Communication specialists Welders

Of the 100,000 currently employed in the industry, it is expected as many as 20,000 new, highly skilled workers will be needed in the next five years to operate and maintain existing reactors. Several factors are driving this need, including:

  • New nuclear plants (one reactor creates up to 3,500 jobs at peak construction, and a new nuclear facility creates about 500 permanent jobs per 1,000 megawatts of electricity generating capacity – compared to 50 for a wind farm and 50 for a natural gas plant)
  • License renewal (73 of the nation’s 100 nuclear reactors have renewed their operating licenses and will continue producing electricity for decades)
  • Retirements among existing workforce (about half of the industry’s workforce will be eligible to retire over the next 10 years)

To meet this need, recruiting the next generation of workers is a major focus for the U.S. nuclear energy industry. Through the Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program, the industry partners with more than 30 community colleges to recruit and train students in a standardized way for employment at nuclear facilities. The industry also focuses recruitment on students from universities, labor apprenticeships and U.S. military personnel – especially graduates of the U.S. Navy’s nuclear propulsion program – to fill specialized positions.

For more information on careers in the nuclear energy industry, refer to the following links:

Reducing carbon dependence with nuclear energy

No single energy source can meet all of our electricity needs. Despite the significant contributions from shale gas and renewable resources, nuclear power remains a key strategic energy source for the future to reduce carbon dependence and environmental impact. Nuclear energy continues to gain support in the global energy market and must be considered an essential part of our future energy mix.

During a speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said that President Obama “sees nuclear energy as a part of his carbon-free portfolio.” In addition, the administration wants to fight climate change by encouraging development of an array of energy sources that have lower carbon emissions.

Nuclear energy also helps address issues of air quality and greenhouse gases. It gives us clean, reliable, affordable power for the future.

Duke Energy operates six nuclear power plants with 11 operating reactors throughout the Carolinas. Due to the benefits of nuclear energy and the importance it will play in meeting future energy needs, the company has efforts under way to expand its nuclear generation fleet in the future if needed.

Duke Energy expects to receive a combined construction and operating license (COL) for its Lee Nuclear Station located in Gaffney, S.C. in mid-2016. The proposed Lee Nuclear Station met an important milestone on Dec. 23 when the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) issued the report of no environmental impacts that would stop issuing of the COL. On Jan. 2, the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control issued an approved Water Qualification Certification (401) for the project. The NRC report of environmental clearance and 401 permit completes the environmental reviews required to obtain the COL.

“The energy needs of our customers are significant over the next 15 years,” said Clark Gillespy, Duke Energy South Carolina state president. “Our commitment is to meet our customers’ needs in a way that balances affordable, reliable and increasingly clean electricity, and this project will help us satisfy that need.”

Although the company submitted COLs for a site in Levy County, Florida and to add two new units at its Harris Nuclear Plant in New Hill, N.C., plans for those locations have recently changed. In January 2014, Duke Energy ended its engineering, construction and procurement agreement for the Levy County site, but continues to pursue the COL as it remains a viable option for future generation. In addition, the company requested the NRC suspend its license application for the new units at Harris; however, the site has not been eliminated for future consideration.


In addition to Duke Energy’s efforts to pursue new nuclear generation, energy companies across the country are currently building new power plants. Georgia Power, a Southern Company, is building two additional nuclear units at Plant Vogtle and are expected to be in service in 2017. South Carolina Electric and Gas Company (SCE&G), principal subsidiary of SCANA Corporation, is also building two new reactors under construction at the Virgil C. Summer Nuclear Station and are expected to be operational by 2018.

As America’s need for energy grows, energy companies are working to determine the most efficient and environmentally sound way to meet the increasing demand for electricity. With growing concerns about air quality, nuclear energy continues to be an important energy source because it emits no greenhouse gases, provides clean and reliable electricity, and is among the lowest-cost providers of baseload electricity.

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Duke Energy engineers reach out to youth during EWeek

Did you hug an engineer last week?

Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet celebrated National Engineers Week (EWeek) during the third week of February this year.

Oconee Nuclear Station's Jessi Link, a systems mechanical engineer and NAYGN member, spoke to 75 students from Anderson County during EWeek 2014.

Oconee Nuclear Station’s Jessi Link, a systems mechanical engineer and NAYGN member, speaks to 75 students from Anderson County during EWeek 2014.

Our goal at Duke Energy is to get the nation’s youth talking about engineering, science and math. We strive to connect students with Duke Energy employees to learn about real-life career options in these fields, as well as career options within the nuclear industry.

During EWeek and throughout the month of February, employees volunteered to reach out to local students to talk with them on a personal level about engineering at their respective work sites and the educational paths they took to get them where they are today.

Oconee Nuclear Station’s education center, the World of Energy, paired up with its site’s North American Young Generation in Nuclear Chapter (NAYGN) engineers, who visited engineering design classes at local career centers and science classes in Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties. Altogether, Oconee’s NAYGN volunteers reached out to nearly 250 students.

Brad Medlin, a 3D modeler and metrologist and NAYGN officer at Oconee, gave an EWeek presentation to engineering students at Hamilton Career Center in Oconee County.

Brad Medlin, a 3D modeler and metrologist and NAYGN officer at Oconee, gave an EWeek presentation to engineering students at Hamilton Career Center in Oconee County.

Not only did they discuss education options with high school students interested in pursuing higher-level education, but they also introduced them to basic nuclear power, interacted with students using fun and engaging activities (like the “hair-raising” Van der Graaf generator!) and answered any questions they had about the nuclear industry.

Are you interested in having someone speak to your group about engineering or the nuclear industry? While EWeek 2014 has come and gone, Duke Energy’s nuclear fleet is committed to spreading the word about engineering and the nuclear industry throughout the year. Our nuclear plants include McGuire Nuclear Station, Harris Nuclear Station, Brunswick Nuclear Station, Oconee, Catawba Nuclear Station, Robinson Nuclear Station and Crystal River Nuclear Station – reach out to their local communications contacts today to schedule a presentation.

Click here to learn more about EWeek.