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The need for reactor engineeers ?

  1. Jan 20, 2010 #1
    Hi all

    I am in mech engineering and I really want to study nuclear engineering to help push along the technology. My questions is given the US's slow adoption of new techs and plants is there really a great need for nuclear engineers specifically ones that work on the reactor.

    MY concentration will be in nuclear but the mech degree allows for me not to be overly committed, but working on energy and making plants smaller safer and more efficent is what I want to do. Will i need to stay more on the research end of things or is there enough demand from reactor vendors to make reactor engineering a feasible career.

    I am concerned it will be a niche for few hundred people.

    Also as a mech engineer you can use just pure thermo to do a lot of things in regards to nuclear power generation. What are some jobs besides reactor engineering where a nuclear degree is required in power generation. I am excluding all operator type roles stricly enginnering.

    Thanks in advance
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2010 #2
    There's a need, because so many people in the industry will be retiring in the next few years. You should be able to name your own salary. Probably the bigger opportunities will be in the construction of new nuclear reactors overseas (there will only be a few nuclear units here in the US, despite what's in the press). The nuclear engineering degree opens lots of doors in nuclear for you, but maybe not everywhere else (maybe something in nuclear medicine, maybe, not my area). May nuclear research reactors.

    The Mech Eng degree will open many other doors. I remember working on an aircraft engine design lead by a nuclear engineer (not an aero, much to my surprise).
  4. Jan 20, 2010 #3
    Only retired, sad ? My schools have a bunch of 70s yr old professors still working hard
  5. Jan 21, 2010 #4
    Does this mean that there are no opprotunities in nuclear reactor design in the US? Or just that there are better opprotunities overseas?
  6. Jan 22, 2010 #5
    The actual construction of nuclear plants doesn't require much work by nuclear engineers because the aspects of plant design that they work on is done well before construction in the field starts. Nuclear engineers do participate in the field work but mostly at the very end of construction, during the initial plant startup.

    There's plenty of work here in the US for reactor engineers, both at the NSSS/fuel vendors (Westinghouse, Areva, GE) and at the operating plants (working for the power companies that run the plants). I'd say that most of the real 'nuclear engineering' work is related to the core reload design & fuel management. But having a nuke degree opens the doors to alot of other activities.
  7. Jan 22, 2010 #6
    Most safety/licensing/regulating groups will have a lot of reactor engineering people who double check and critique the work done by the engineers in industry.

    If you would like to help develop the next steps in nuclear reactors, the primary limitations are materials. Developing and understanding materials for nuclear environments seems to currently be the limiting factor for developing new nuclear technologies.

    Mechanical engineers are well suited to this type of work provided they take a course or two on nuclear reactors to understand the engineering requirements of the materials. The main requirement is developing materials that can withstand the radiation fields, higher temperatures and stresses for longer periods of time.
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