Nuclear Engineering

General Overview

Nuclear engineering is a discipline of engineering involving the application of sub-atomic physical and the fission (breakdown) and fusion (combination) of atomic nuclei. Nuclear power is a controversial energy source due to the safety concerns that come from potential accidents and the decommissioning of nuclear power stations, reactors and military equipment. The nuclear engineering field also includes the applications of radiation in medicine.

 

Nuclear power provides around 11% of the world's electricity and consequently there are many engineering jobs within the sector. Nuclear engineers working in this sector will typically be involved in designing, building, running, maintaining and decommissioning power stations. Depending on the individual role, engineers may work as part of a multi-disciplinary team or lead one as a Project Engineer, looking at designing new power stations or ‘stream-lining’ the operation of existing ones through improving the efficiency and sustainability of existing ones. Project Engineers are also concerned with time and budget management. Some roles can be very unique, concerned with specific areas of a plant and so there are roles for mechanical, electrical, civil and chemical engineers.

An assembly / typical set up of a nuclear power plant. Source: www.nuclear-power.net

In medicine, radiation therapy, x-rays, MRI and PET scans are examples of the application of nuclear engineering through diagnostic imaging. No matter in which industry however, nuclear engineers must always be careful to take precautions and examine the strength and amount of any radiation using detection equipment.

 

Over 100 years ago, Ernest Rutherford broke the nuclei of atoms at University of Manchester which has since enabled nuclear technology and power to be developed. In 1939, German scientists Otto Han and Fritz Straussmann discovered nuclear fission which was later used during WWII in nuclear bombs and in nuclear reactors. Today nuclear power plant projects are still being commissioned and nuclear technology is used vastly throughout medicine.

Required Knowledge

Skills and Expertise

  • Sub-atomic particle physics knowledge

  • Project management

  • Problem solving

  • Health and Safety knowledge

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Software Understanding

  • Word processing, spreadsheets and presentations (E.g. MS Word, MS Excel, MS Powerpoint; Google Docs, Sheets and Slides)

  • Project Management Software (E.g. Microsoft Project)

  • Monte Carlo N-Particle Transport Code (MCNP)

Example Jobs
  • Process Engineer

  • Reactor Operator

  • Project Engineer

  • Health and Safety Specialist

  • Quality Engineer

Institutions

UK: Nuclear Institute (NI)

USA: American Nuclear Society (ANS), Nuclear and Plasma Science Society (NPSS), Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO), Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM)

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