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Is it possible to be a nuclear engineer and live in a (somewhat) urban environment?

  1. May 8, 2012 #1
    (and other questions...)

    I've become quite interested in nuclear engineering. I'm thinking about studying computational science, in particular. My university, University of Illinois, has a technical track specifically for this purpose.

    I've become a little concerned as I look around at potential employment, however. Most of what I'm seeing are jobs at the plants themselves which are usually remotely located. Is it the case that nuclear engineers necessarily work at the plants themselves?

    In addition, I'm having a hard time finding jobs that even fit the description of what (I think) I'm looking to do. Most things that I see that seem likely, things that involve modeling systems, usually want CS or EE. The majority of the jobs I see for NucE are for plant maintenance and operation. Am I looking in the wrong places?

    Ideally I would like to work for some sort of energy consultant that would allow me to work on multiple projects over time and (hopefully) travel a little. I am most interested in the larger problems regarding the use of nuclear energy, like long term solutions for SNF, and less so in the day to day operations of a single plant.

    Is this unrealistic?

    Some of the organizations I have looked at are Areva, NuScale, Gen4, Westinghouse, DoE, and Nuclear Energy Consultants.

    Thank you.

    (One last thing I forgot to ask -- would the work of a computational scientist/engineer be considered creative?)
     
  2. jcsd
  3. May 8, 2012 #2
    Re: Is it possible to be a nuclear engineer and live in a (somewhat) urban environmen

    it is possible to study nuclear physics everywhere you have internet connection.
     
  4. May 8, 2012 #3

    Astronuc

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    Re: Is it possible to be a nuclear engineer and live in a (somewhat) urban environmen

    Yes - it is possible to be a nuclear engineer and live in an urban environment.

    Westinghouse has offices in the suburbs of Pittsburgh, PA and Columbia, SC (and other places).

    AREVA is has a plant and offices in Lynchburg, VA and Richland, WA (and other places).

    GEH and GNF have facilities in Wilmington, NC and other places.

    Gen4 is based in Denver, NuScale has offices in Corvallis, OR, and mPower is located in Lynchburg, Va.

    One could work in core design at a utility.

    Or one can do computational physics at one of the DOE labs.

    One will want to look at the CASL program
    http://www.casl.gov/

    and a similar one at INL
    http://www.inl.gov/research/moose/

    While there might be quite a few CS/CE folks on those projects, there are also quite a few nuclear engineers/scientists as well as mechanical engineers with FEA/CFD experience and materials scientists/engineers from various labs.
     
  5. May 8, 2012 #4

    QuantumPion

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    Re: Is it possible to be a nuclear engineer and live in a (somewhat) urban environmen

    If you are focusing on computational science then you probably would not be working at a plant site directly. You would be working with engineering design staff which are usually located in cities where the company is headquartered.

    Based on your desired job description though, you would be better suited looking for a job at a national lab (e.g. Oak Ridge, LLNL), NRC, or vendor rather than an energy company which runs a plant. These types of positions usually require a masters or post-grad degree.

    The energy companies are primarily concerned with day to day operation of their plants, it would be pretty difficult to get in to advanced planning/design type work without a lot of experience in the field already.
     
  6. May 8, 2012 #5
    Re: Is it possible to be a nuclear engineer and live in a (somewhat) urban environmen

    Thank you for the replies.

    Astronuc, I appreciate those links. I had not found those before. I was aware of many of facilities you mentioned. However, when I've looked at jobs at those locations, I've found the opportunities that explicitly request NucE to be limited. In general, as I search for jobs, most that I find that want a NucE degree specifically are at the plants. It sets my mind at ease to know that these opportunities do in fact exist.

    On a side note, I've read a ton of your posts dating back many years. It has been per your recommendation that I started looking into computational nuclear engineering. I recall in one thread that you said there is no design involved. Does that mean that you would not consider it to be a creative endeavor?

    QuantomPion, thank you for the advice. Indeed, it is my intent to go on to get a PhD. Pretty much all of the work I find I'm interested in requires at least a masters but I've noticed in the nuclear field in particular that a PhD seems preferred. Thank you for reaffirming that for me.
     
  7. May 8, 2012 #6

    Astronuc

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    Re: Is it possible to be a nuclear engineer and live in a (somewhat) urban environmen

    Tradiationally, design and analysis have been two separate functions in engineering. However, that has not always been the case in all situations. It's just been common for designers and analysts to be separated. That distinction has become blurred over the past several decades, and there are more opportunities to do both design and analysis, and in fact, there are some opportunities to do 'design by analysis'.

    Nevertheless, there is plenty of creativity in analysis as well as design, especially where one customizes materials for specific applications/environments. Actually, I prefer to mix both capabilities because I enjoy design work as well as analysis, and it helps to be able to do both, and to be very good at doing both. :biggrin:

    The big growth area in energy (not just nuclear) systems is computational physics or multiphysics simulation, whether done on a proprietary system, or one of the off-the-shelf commercial systems. These systems are still in development, and so will the applications.
     
  8. May 9, 2012 #7
    Re: Is it possible to be a nuclear engineer and live in a (somewhat) urban environmen

    I would love to be able describe my work in this way.

    I dug a little deeper into the NuScale opportunities and found some things that fit this description.

    Thanks again for the input.
     
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