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Nuclear vs. Electrical

  1. Jun 29, 2006 #1
    I'm seriously confused! I am starting my junior year of engineering school and I can't decide which field I want to go into. I am seriously interested in nuclear engineering, however, I am also very interested in robotics. Right now in my school career I am on track where I could go either way nuclear or electrical.
    I am worried that if I go into nuclear engineering I may not develop the skills I need to learn robotics. My father is a retired nuclear eng. and he advised that I try and do both. My school offers a minor in electrical and I think I might do that and specialize in control systems.
    I am also worried about the future for nuclear engineers. I worry that the American public may never come around and the field will continue to stagnate. I know the current administration seems to be supportive of the field, but adminstrations change.
    If I go EE and don't take the nuclear route there is no minor for nuclear. I could take some classes but they wouldn't count for anything. I enjoy EE and am a former electronics technician, but it doesn't fascinate me the way nuclear does. Then again I may not have been exposed to enough nuclear to decide if I like it or not. Any ideas or words of wisdom from anybody that has already been there or out in the field?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 29, 2006 #2
    If I were you, I'd go for nuclear engineering. It's what fascinates you, and like you said, you can always get a EE minor. Plus, the world could use more nuclear engineers to help us out when we begin to run out of oil. (For my part, I'm be diligently working on the EE end.)
  4. Jun 29, 2006 #3
    Just a Q: Can you do a bachelors in EE and a masters in Nuclear Engineering and take some nuke courses for now?
  5. Jun 29, 2006 #4
    Nuclear engineers also work in the health industry in radiology and pharma because ne can identify certain isotopes. Do not think that the fate of ne relies on nuclear energy soley.
  6. Jun 30, 2006 #5
    Go with what you are truly interested in. If you choose otherwise, you will absolutely hate it. No engineering is a breeze, so if you're not 100% interested you're going to regret it.

    That said, Control Systems is an awesome field with many fantastic applications. My Control Systems courses were the only EE classes where I've actually felt the material was "beautiful." I've enjoyed other classes, but Control Systems are so elegant. Especially the material in a Modern Control Systems course.
  7. Jun 30, 2006 #6


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    :biggrin: I'm a Nuke, but I also did a fair amount of EE, mainly in Electrical Power Systems (and some Control theory), as well as Materials Science. My research in grad school was directed to Nuclear Propulsion for Spacecraft, and one area was a nuclear electric system.

    I'd say try both if you can. Again, it depends on what interests you.

    There certainly is need for robotics in nuclear energy - high rad fields require remote handling and inspection, so there is a lot of EE and robotics applications in Nuclear Engineering.

    Recently two new reactors were ordered in the US and there maybe more announced in the next two years.

    The demand for NE's could definitely pickup.
  8. Jun 30, 2006 #7
    This may be BS, but it seems like an EE could find work in the nuclear power field (or many other nuke E industries), but a nuke E would have trouble getting a lot of EE oriented positions. The EE seems like it would be more versatile overall, and if you are interested in both then EE is the way to go. , imo.
  9. Jun 30, 2006 #8


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    Not necessarily. An NE with EE background could go into nuclear instrumentation/detectors systems. If an NE has power electronics/ power systems training, he or she could go into power systems. NE is one of the most rigorous engineering programs, but it also has a high attrition rate. Our program usually started with 100-200 students, and sometimes we'd be lucky to have 10 remaining in the senior year.
  10. Jun 30, 2006 #9
    I wouldn't say EE is any less rigorous. There are EE programs with equally high attrition rates. And while there are some opportunities for NEs to do EE type work, the EE degree will be marketable to more employers than NE I would think.
  11. Jun 30, 2006 #10


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    Yes, there are more applications in EE, so there are likely more positions and job opportunities. On the other hand, an NE/EE major has more opportunities than either NE or EE alone.
  12. Jun 30, 2006 #11
    Thanks everyone for the information!

    I like Mavericks idea about the EE bachelors and then the masters in NE. I can take several NE classes along with my EE and then go to grad school for NE.

    Also Astronuc I had heard of one new plant being ordered by Nuenergy (I believe) I hadn't heard of the other one. That is good news!

    As far as programs being difficult I know that. I am not looking for the easier of the two at all. In fact, I love the fact that engineering school is difficult.

    Does anyone know about the NUPOC program with the Navy? I am former military and have no desire to get back underway, however, I saw that they had a nuclear instructor program that intrests me. I'm going to go talk to some Navy people about the program, but was wondering if anyone had any firsthand experience or knew anybody involved in the program. Is it better to stick with the civilian world?
  13. Jul 1, 2006 #12


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    This is certainly doable, but one would need some reactor physics courses, before or during one's MS program.
    There is a consortium called "Nustart", and they are planning to order one or two units. The plant I heard about is for NRG at the site of the South Texas Nuclear Project (STNP). I also heard that two ABWRs were ordered. NRG's is the only announcement at the moment, although there are several COL applications in various stages of preparation - for possibly 12-16 new nuclear plants. These would be for Gen III plants like the ESBWR, AP-1000, or EPR.

    A fellow student from my class became a Nuc instructor after he got his NE degree. I believe he now commands an attack submarine.

    The Naval program maybe the way to go, or one could join a utility and become a reactor operator and work up to SRO, or join a vendor and do core design. RPI's NE program has an affiliation with the Naval program, so you might check with them. Also there maybe possibilities with Bettis or Knolls facilities with an MS degree.
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