Over 31,000 jobs in Canada are directly or indirectly attributed to the nuclear sector.
Nuclear workers are employed by nuclear power stations, uranium mining and processing companies, nuclear fuel fabricators, and manufacturers of radioisotopes for medical and other uses.
Nuclear workers are by and large unionized, highly trained and well paid. In addition to a large workforce of nuclear operators, workers at Canada’s nuclear power stations include a wide range of skilled trades people and specialists in various areas. Skilled trades include mechanics, carpenters, plumbers, pipe fitters, millwrights, machinists, outside workers and control technicians who look after automated control systems. Another category includes painters, insulators, maintenance workers and equipment custodians.
In nuclear power plants a significant number of personnel – up to five percent – are devoted entirely to safety training and monitoring. These include radiation safety technicians and officers, as well as conventional safety specialists. Another group is responsible for plant and nuclear security. Other jobs are found in administrative support personnel, engineers, nuclear scientists, physicists, computer specialists, management staff and other specialized workers round out plant personnel.
Nuclear operators (NOs) are hired into training positions. After 18-24 months of classroom and on-the-job training, they are qualified to work in the generation unit of a nuclear plant. Positions with more direct involvement in nuclear operations and reactor fueling require additional training. Qualification as an Authorized Nuclear Operator (sometimes called a control room operator) requires extensive study over several years while progressing through the ranks of NOs.
The demographics of the nuclear workforce – in 2007 the average worker was in his or her mid-to-late 40s – means there will be plenty of opportunity for young workers in the coming years. The need will be further accentuated by the expected resurgence of the nuclear power sector due to a growing demand for ‘green’ electricity.
A significant number of nuclear workers are nearing retirement, including many in the skilled trades, engineering, and critical operations positions. To meet the demand, companies are developing partnerships with colleges and universities to ensure high quality candidates are ready for positions opening up over the next several years.
The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College, both located in Oshawa, Ontario, offer programs geared to the nuclear industry. In addition, some unions are developing training programs for young workers in conjunction with local colleges. The Power Workers’ Union (PWU), for instance, operates a union training centre adjacent to the Bruce nuclear site, in conjunction with Fanshawe College in London, Ontario.
There are also excellent opportunities in uranium mining, where new mine sites are under development and exploration continues for undiscovered uranium deposits. Experienced miners are in short supply and recent union contracts have reflected that demand.
For more information on job opportunities visit the employer’s web sites which are listed under the “Where Our Members Work” section on this site.