What is Nuclear Engineering?

Nuclear Engineering is the study, design and application of devices that involve nuclear phenomena (fission, fusion, radiation …). The most obvious example is that associated with nuclear power plants. But there are many other applications involving radioisotopes in the medical and industrial sectors.

In all such uses, protection of people and the environment from, and the safe handling of, radioactive substances require an understanding of:

  • the fundamentals of radioactive processes (decay, scattering, absorption)
  • the types and behaviour of radiation (alpha, beta, gamma, X-rays, neutrons)
  • the effects on inert and living materials (radiation damage, activation, shielding)
  • radiation detection and instrumentation
  • safety philosophy and practices
  • energy deposition and removal
  • waste management.

Power plant engineering in general requires an interdisciplinary understanding of engineering fundamentals in:

  • heat transfer
  • fluid mechanics
  • control and instrumentation
  • process systems engineering
  • corrosion chemistry.

Nuclear power plants in addition require an understanding of reactor physics which includes:

  • reactor statics (flux distributions, multigroup and transport theory)
  • reactor dynamics (kinetics, feedback)
  • reactor core criticality
  • reactor control
  • fuel management
  • reactor instrumentation
  • reactor safety
  • reactor shielding
  • reactor materials

For a list of university programs and professors involved in the nuclear area see the Nuclear Canada university page.

Job Prospects in the Nuclear Industry

Demographics for employees in Canada's nuclear industry show a large number of workers nearing retirement and a lack of mid-career professionals. Retirements alone means that many attractive and technically challenging positions in nuclear-related companies have become open and many more will be open in the foreseeable future. While the recent slowdown in the economy has indeed lessened the urgency for building new reactors in Ontario, the urgency for new build , refurbishment of an ageing nuclear fleet and for the replacement of polluting fossil fueled electrical generating plants is as urgent as ever in Canada and worldwide. Active construction projects worldwide takes the total number of reactors currently under construction to 53 as of January 2010, according to the World Nuclear Association Power Reactor page. The market is world-wide and the skills are portable making a career in nuclear a good choice for a better future.

For information on a nuclear career visit the Nuclear Canada career page. For extensive information on nuclear worldwide, see the World Nuclear Association website, starting with their page on Canada.

For a list of companies that hire in the nuclear area see the Nuclear Canada company page.