Empyrean Services

Since it was formed in 2000, Empyrean Services has provided skilled and experienced engineering, management and technical consulting services to the nuclear industry in the United States and Canada. As the nuclear industry has seen a resurgence of activity in recent years, Empyrean has provided clients with assistance in everything from design and construction to startup, operation and decommissioning.

“When we started, we were strictly a consulting company,” CEO Sushil Jain says. “As we grew, we expanded the consulting business and created the staff-augmentation revenue stream.”

On the Rise

Empyrean has a diverse client base, including nuclear utility power plants, nuclear suppliers and commercial and government nuclear facilities. The company’s executive consulting services allow it to provide clients with specialized expertise in nuclear programs. Its staff-augmentation services help clients by providing access to staff members who are experienced in all aspects of nuclear facility operation.

“Today, Empyrean Services can provide staff augmentation for a nuclear facility in all professional areas,” Jain says. “What we don’t provide are craft laborers or radiation technicians. We provide staff augmentation for the white collar positions, and provide consulting services for engineering, licensing, construction, program management and project management.”

One area where Empyrean’s business has expanded has been in nuclear construction projects. The company has more than 50 people on site at the MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility project in Aiken, S.C. It has also been involved with the development of the URENCO USA uranium enrichment facility in New Mexico where it has about 40 employees.

The MOX Fuel Fabrication Facility is focused on removing impurities from surplus weapons-grade plutonium, mixing it with uranium oxide to form MOX fuel pellets for reactor fuel assemblies. Including support facilities, the project is 600,000 square feet in total size. The MOX facility will clean and purify weapons-grade material in a seven-level aqueous polishing portion of the building, while fuel fabrication will takes place in the facility’s three levels of fuel manufacturing space.

The URENCO USA facility is located five miles east of Eunice, N.M. Although it began operations in June 2010, project construction will continue until the plant reaches 5,700 tSW/year capacity. The first enrichment facility to be built in the United States in 30 years, it is the first ever to use centrifuge enrichment technology.

“Beyond those projects, the nuclear industry overall has been going through a resurgence over the last five years,” Jain explains. “There have been orders for new nuclear plants in Georgia and South Carolina. In addition to new construction, existing plants are investing in upgrades to maximize output and the licensed life of the plants.

“Various plants are going through license renewals and life extension. Many others are undertaking extended power uprates through major plant modifications to increase plant capacity by as much as 200 megawatts.”

Where this presents both a challenge and opportunity for Empyrean is in the experience factor. Because the U.S. nuclear industry had been stagnant for so long, the nuclear workforce didn’t see an influx of younger talent. In fact, approximately one-third of the nuclear workforce in the United States is expected to retire in the next few years.

This is a challenge because the demand for skilled employees is greater than the supply. Although it means Empyrean has to compete for a thin pool of employees, it also means its employees are in demand from the types of clients that Empyrean serves.

“We employ senior-level people who are nuclear industry professionals who can help younger engineers by providing coaching and mentoring,” Jain says. “This will help new engineers in the industry to learn and get up to speed, ensuring a strong nuclear workforce in the future.”

Seeing the Trends

Although the U.S. nuclear industry is still growing, there was a bit of a pullback in new construction after the 2011 Fukushima incident in Japan. The events in Japan created a renewed focus in the U.S. commercial nuclear industry on the hazard of external flooding and seismic events.

Empyrean responded by providing consulting services in the area of flood hazards, an area of the industry that the company hadn’t done much work in previously. Since Fukushima, clients have reached out to Empyrean for help in assessing and addressing flood hazards at nuclear power plants. Having that capability in-house helps the company sell its services to prospective clients.

“Strategically, from a resource standpoint, we are looking to hire people who may have retired but now want to get back to work,” Jain says. “We can attract people in that situation and offer them the option of coaching and mentoring younger people. We are positioning ourselves for the future by widening the types of services we provide.”

It will always be Empyrean’s goal to seek continuing growth through additions to its client base. The company has a director of sales overseeing the effort to secure more business. There are also areas of the market where the company is thinking about expanding. For example, it has yet to venture into the small modular reactor sector of the nuclear industry, and it is in the process of determining how it would go about servicing that niche.

Another ongoing challenge is to make sure it has the right internal resource for the right client need. Prior to the growth in the market, many more people were available. Now, the company finds itself having to pull people from other assignments and seek out more expertise to meet the market demand.

“It is increasingly more challenging to find the right people so we can deploy them to client sites,” Jain says. “We will continue to utilize the network of those who have worked with us in the past to help us bring in more skilled, experienced people. I anticipate that as more people retire in the next several years, many of them will get into consulting, staff augmentation and mentoring, which will provide us with some relief and help us meet client needs. We look forward to being a key industry partner during the upcoming nuclear renaissance.”

Corporate Head Office

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Cringleford Business Centre
Intwood Road
Cringleford, Norwich, UK
NR4 6AU

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Finelight Media
207 E. Ohio Street Suite 351
Chicago, IL 60611

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