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Physics Careers in Nuclear Physics

  1. Aug 14, 2012 #1
    Hello all! I've graduated my undergraduate Masters in Physics with astrophysics this summer, and am now looking into doing a postgraduate Masters in The Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors as the area holds great interest for me.

    The problem is I don't really know anything about the careers in this area. I don't want to go straight into academia (I'd like to do ten years or so in industry before doing a PhD, which I'd like to do in particle physics), but I really don't know much about the career options or prospects and whether this particular masters is a great choice for such.

    Does anyone have any insights/advice/suggestions?

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 17, 2012 #2
    So I'm to understand no one on this whole forum works in the nuclear industry or has interest in this particularly large field, or is it more that nobody feels like sharing and helping?
  4. Aug 17, 2012 #3
    Former I think...I joined PF only a few days ago and I can already tell the community is extremely polite and friendly.
  5. Aug 19, 2012 #4


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    Nuclear reactor physics is mostly about neutron transport and interactions with reactor materials. It's a bit different than particle physics or astrophysics.

    The commerical nuclear companies AREVA, Toshiba/Westinghouse, and GNF have established and mature methods in reactor physics and core design. Independents such as Studsvik-Scandpower also have established and mature methods, which several utilities use.

    One may wish to search for current work with DENOVO and DeCART, which are research codes.

    http://info.ornl.gov/sites/publications/Files/Pub22424.pdf [Broken]


    The direction these for nuclear reactor (core) simulation is coupled multi-physics simulation.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  6. Aug 19, 2012 #5


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    I'm a nuclear physicist, now working (very happily) at a community college. I think your career choice sounds great, because nuclear power is the only realistic near-term way to deal with global warming. The problem is that you're a hostage to politics. People reacted irrationally to Fukushima, where thousands of people were killed by the tsunami, and zero by the nuclear accident. Yucca Mountain is being stopped by Harry Reid, which means that the US has no viable plan for storing the nuclear waste that's accumulating (very unsafely) on site at dozens of plants. There is no way of knowing at this point whether the industry is going to wither on the vine as old plants like San Onofre are shut down and no new replacements are built.
  7. Aug 20, 2012 #6
    Thanks for the replies!

    @Astronuc- Yeah I understand that- I chose my undergraduate degree based on interest with little intent to work in the area, the postgraduate study is based upon an intent to work in the industry as well as interest. And while they may be a bit different to each other, surely there are pretty firm links between particle and nuclear physics? Particle physics is something I want to get into in the future purely for the research and lecturing aspects, as I doubt there is much industry need for more particle physicists.

    It's worth noting I'm UK based for the next few years- I'll gain experience working with a course sponsor post-MSc for probably five years before moving to the USA, where I intend to garner 3-5 further years of industry before turning towards my PhD.

    I think the nuclear industry is safe in the UK for a while to come. We have I believe 16 reactors currently running, mostly advanced gas cooled, with more to be opened in the near future (with old ones like the Magnox and pressurised water reactors being decommissioned in the next 5-10 years).
    My question is, what are some of the industry careers for nuclear physicists? ie safety inspector? I'll obviously learn more through this year as I attend various industry classes with visiting specialists, as well as via the university's career centre, but I thought a general idea might be a good idea before diving into the course.
  8. Aug 20, 2012 #7


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    There's a link somewhat. Nuclei are composed of particles, nucleons, specifically protons and neutrons, but most nuclear reactions are pretty low energy. The binding energy per nucleon is in the MeV range. Fusion reactions release energy in the low MeV (0-20 MeV) range, while fission releases on the order of 200 MeV, but that is divided among fission products with combined mass of about 233 amu, and 2 or 3 neutrons, and beta and gamma rays. And there is some nonrecoverable nuclear energy lost to anti-neutrinos (from beta decay of fission products). Particle physics tends to deal with more energetic reactions - in the high (100s) to GeV to TeV range.
    There is opportunity in the UK, with HSE, NNL, NDA, Culham, EdF Energy.

    http://www.nnl.co.uk/ (this might be the ticket for one with a nuclear physics background)

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