Trading in the Nuclear Industry: Trends and Challenges:

Whilst trading in the nuclear industry has its challenges, it is nonetheless an industry with many positives.

Demand for Precision

Whether it be the offering of services, delivery of engineering design or the supply of components, the requirement is invariably to meet exact standards, which is not easy when presented with an excruciatingly long delivery timeline and protracted decision-making process. However, the nuclear industry is not unique in this regard, with all major infrastructure projects suffering from the same ills.

What makes the nuclear industry different is the need to demonstrate compliance with ‘standards’ intended to guarantee lifetime safety – and the extension of these not just to supplied equipment and systems, but to any inter-connected facility – i.e. the Knock-On Effect. The natural conclusion would be that ‘Training for Nuclear’ is expensive.

What does this mean for businesses looking to ‘trade’? Either the business must have very deep pockets to finance the speculative period to contract award, or it must be a diversified business not reliant on one particular industry or sector. Either model carries considerable risks, as the drought between contracts in the former can be very long, with insufficient ‘crumbs’ offered in the meantime. In the latter, fewer resources may be deployed, causing client expectations not to be met.


There is no simple answer to this issue and my only advice is to network using both formal events, such as the highly successful Sellafield Directors Forum and the UKAEA Open Day, as well as informally using one’s own contact database.

Networking activities demand two important attributes: long-term commitment, i.e. time which can be measured in years, and the necessary financial investment.

There are many ‘advertising’ publications where the nuclear industry announces its activities and achievements. However, whilst interesting to read, in the majority of cases any business opportunity has already been offered or is too far into the future.

International Trade

International nuclear trade opportunities are available, although competition is fierce. Help is available through UK Government’s Department for International Trade, but one should always be aware of the financial and time commitment that will be necessary. For fear of teaching Grandma to suck eggs, it is necessary to meet your potential client at least four times in a year and to invite them to your office and facilities at least twice. A prospective investor should choose their target country carefully, invest in translators even if targets appear to understand English, prepare written brochures, consider appointing an agent or advisor, research potential clients and know their own product and service intimately.

Within the EU, investors can make use of the free ‘Tender Electronic Daily’ to see what Government contracts or Notices of Intent are being launched or published. Whilst currently open to UK companies, not all are in the English language and one should be wary of the ‘Brexit’ effect.

About the Author

John Ireland is an internationally experienced energy specialist and senior business executive skilled in the development, negotiation, and management of businesses and technically complex contracts within both the Government and private sectors. John, a Chartered Engineer and Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, has been Chief Engineer advising clients on nuclear new build in Romania and investigating opportunities in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, and Project Manager for the treatment and management of toxic and radio-toxic chemical wastes in the UK, Japan, and the EU.

Prospect Law is a multi-disciplinary practice with specialist expertise in the energy and environmental sectors with particular experience in the low carbon energy sector. The firm is made up of lawyers, engineers, surveyors and finance experts.

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This article is not intended to constitute legal or other professional advice and it should not be relied on in any way.