Water Welders is reader-supported. When you buy via links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no cost to you. Learn more.

How Much Do Nuclear Welders Make? 2021 Salary Statistics

Last Updated on

a nuclear welder outside the plant

Nuclear welding is considered one of the highest-paying careers in the welding industry. Nuclear welders work in nuclear power plants, research and development institutes, scientific laboratories, and testing facilities.

The demand for skilled nuclear welders has increased because of the need to establish new energy sources and increase safety standards.

If you’re thinking of becoming a nuclear welder or are interested in the nuclear welding profession, this article offers detailed information about the career. It includes the job description, duties, and salary statistics.


What is Nuclear Welding?

A nuclear welder is also known as a Radiation Protection Technician. Nuclear welders inspect and maintain equipment. They’re trained to handle radioactive mediums. Nuclear welding requires specialized training, skills, and knowledge.

Nuclear welding is a process that uses intense heat and radiation to join together two pieces of metal. The process is also used in the electronics industry to fuse chips.

The nuclear fusion reaction takes place at high temperatures. The piece of metal being fused is bombarded with neutrons. The bombarding neutrons cause the atoms in the metal to become ionized through the process called nuclear fusion.

The ionized atoms collide and smash to form ions. When enough ions have been formed, they collide and fuse to form atoms. This process bonds the fused pieces together. Then, the atoms join to become solid metal.

Some reactors use pure hydrogen as fuel. Other reactors use a mix of hydrogen and helium. The reactions in the pure hydrogen reactor are quicker. But the reactions in the helium reactor are slow and more controlled.

nuclear welders at work

Image Credit: Viktor_LA, Shutterstock

Average Nuclear Welder Salary

Nuclear welder salaries may be different than you expect. Below is the average breakdown.

How Much Do Nuclear Welders Make in an Hour?

According to PayScale, a nuclear welder makes an average salary of $32 per hour.

Nuclear Welder Daily Wages

A nuclear welder has a typical 8-hour workday making an average of $250.

Weekly Earnings

The weekly average salary of a nuclear welder is $1,288.

Month Salary for Nuclear Welders

Nuclear welders can make up to $5,581 per month, depending on various factors that we’ll discuss later.

Annual Salary

The average annual salary of nuclear welders is $66,978. Nuclear welders working conditions are quite demanding, and they must work harder. Sometimes they have to stand for long periods and lift heavy equipment. Also, their job is risky, and all these factors contribute to a higher salary commensurate to their work input.

Average Nuclear Welder Salary According to Level of Expertise

1. Entry-Level Nuclear Welders (25th percentile)

Nuclear welders usually make an average of $42,000 a year. Usually, entry-level welders make about $21 an hour or $35,000 a year. Entry-level welders work 40 hours a week.

2. Mid-Level Nuclear Welders (75th percentile)

Mid-level nuclear welders make more money than lower-level welders. They make from $38,000 to $58,000 a year.

3. Top Earners (90th percentile)

Top earners in nuclear welding earn between $60,000 and $70,000 a year. It depends on their level of experience and the company they work for. Nuclear welders, who have many years of experience, can make as much as $75,000 a year.

nuclear power plant up close

Image Credit: Lukáš Lehotský, Unsplash

Salary Earnings by Cities

CITY AVERAGE SALARY (PER YEAR) AVERAGE SALARY (PER HOUR)
Fremont (California) $77,814 $37.41
Alexandria (Virginia) $75,568 $36.33
Santa Clara (California) $81,034 $38.96
Wasilla (Alaska) $75,119 $36.12
Oakland (California) $75,306 $36.20
San Francisco (California) $81,010 $38.95
Santa Maria (California) $73,958 $35.56
San Jose (California) $76,130 $36.60
Tanaina (Alaska) $75,120 $36.12
Sunnyvale (California) $74,448 $35.79

Factors that Affect a Nuclear Welder’s Salary

Position

Nuclear welders are employed in several different positions. Some nuclear welders may be employed in a manufacturing or construction setting. Others may work in maintenance or research. Their duties may vary from one position to another, and this affects the salary.

Education

The degree and type of education received in school is a crucial factor affecting the salary of nuclear welders. The higher one’s education level is, the higher the salary received.

A nuclear welder with a two-year associate degree earns a median annual salary of $30,460. But a nuclear welder with a bachelor’s degree earns $47,280 annually. The annual salary of nuclear welders with a master’s degree rises to $74,340 a year.

Experience

Experience is the key to earning more. The more experience you have, the more valuable you are. Also, the more experience you have, the more competent you are. A nuclear welder with four to five years of experience earns about $45,000 per year. But a nuclear welder with only one or two years of experience earns only about $31,000 per year.

nuclear welder working

Image Credit: Vladimir Mulder, Shutterstock

Location

Many factors may have an impact on the salary of a welder. They include the employer’s location, the welder’s location, and the location of the nuclear facility. A nuclear welder’s salary may be higher if employed by a nuclear facility located in a populated area.

Nuclear welders located in areas with lower costs of living may earn less. They may be working less hours for less pay. Nuclear welders in locations with a higher cost of living may make more money. They may be working fewer hours for a higher pay rate.

Employer

Nuclear welders employed by defense contractors earn the highest salaries according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They can receive up to $68,000 a year.

Nuclear welders employed at electric utilities make $52,000, while those employed by mining or oil companies make $45,000. Nuclear welders employed by manufacturing companies make about $40,000 a year.

Also, nuclear welders are employed by the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA). They’re the main contractors for the building, equipping, and testing of nuclear power plants.

Do Nuclear Welders Receive Benefits?

Nuclear welders receive benefits in two categories:

Immediate Benefits

They include health insurance, vacations, and safety equipment.

Long-Term Benefits

They comprise retirement, pensions, housing, and other benefits.

nuclear power plant from afar

Image Credit: Jason Blackeye, Unsplash

Qualifications Needed to Become a Nuclear Welder

Nuclear welding is an exciting and high-paying career. The nuclear power field offers many lucrative job opportunities for qualified individuals.

But what does it take to qualify to become a nuclear welder? The first thing you should know is that nuclear welding training programs can be rigorous. It means that you should take time to research your options before deciding on one.

 Here are several qualifications if you’re looking to become a nuclear welder.

  • FBI clearance
  • You must pass a background check. Also, allow the government to access your personal information during the vetting procedure
  • Two years of recent increasingly responsible heavy equipment operation experience
  • Hold a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Complete a welding certification course
  • Preferably have some experience welding with stainless steel
  • Must have a passport or permanent resident card
  • Must have at least one year of shipyard experience (this training usually takes one week)
  • Pass a test administered by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers
  • Attend a 14-week course at a community college
  • Must know about radiation safety, nuclear reactors, and testing equipment
  • Become certified through the NCSCHS certification program

Conclusion

Nuclear welders are members of a group of skilled laborers who perform various tasks on nuclear power plants. They perform tasks ranging from welding pipes to making gaskets.

If you’re interested in working in the nuclear power industry, a nuclear welder’s salary can be attractive. The task is demanding and specialized. Nuclear welders can find work in the government, private companies, and universities.

The demand for nuclear welders in nuclear power plants is expected to increase significantly because nuclear power plants are expanding, and replacement welders are needed to repair aging plants.


Featured Image Credit: BokehStore, Shutterstock

Cameron Dekker
 

Cameron grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, a once-proud steel town on the Lehigh River, where he got a taste of TIG welding in his high school shop class. He holds certificates for Certified WeldingEducator (CWE) and Certified Resistance Welding Technician (CRWT) from the American Welding Institute. His interests include scuba diving, sculpture, and kayaking.