Nuclear engineering

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Nuclear engineering is the branch of engineering concerned with the application of breaking down atomic nuclei (fission) or of combining atomic nuclei (fusion), or with the application of other sub-atomic processes based on the principles of nuclear physics. In the sub-field of nuclear fission, it particularly includes the design, interaction, and maintenance of systems and components like nuclear reactors, nuclear power plants, or nuclear weapons. The field also includes the study of medical and other applications of radiation, particularly Ionizing radiation, nuclear safety, heat/thermodynamics transport, nuclear fuel, or other related technology (e.g.,  radioactive waste disposal) and the problems of nuclear proliferation.This field also includes chemical engineering and electrical engineering as well.

Engineering applied science

Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other items, including bridges, tunnels, roads, vehicles, and buildings. The discipline of engineering encompasses a broad range of more specialized fields of engineering, each with a more specific emphasis on particular areas of applied mathematics, applied science, and types of application. See glossary of engineering.

Atomic nucleus core of the atom; composed of bound nucleons (protons and neutrons)

The atomic nucleus is the small, dense region consisting of protons and neutrons at the center of an atom, discovered in 1911 by Ernest Rutherford based on the 1909 Geiger–Marsden gold foil experiment. After the discovery of the neutron in 1932, models for a nucleus composed of protons and neutrons were quickly developed by Dmitri Ivanenko and Werner Heisenberg. An atom is composed of a positively-charged nucleus, with a cloud of negatively-charged electrons surrounding it, bound together by electrostatic force. Almost all of the mass of an atom is located in the nucleus, with a very small contribution from the electron cloud. Protons and neutrons are bound together to form a nucleus by the nuclear force.

Nuclear fission nuclear reaction or a radioactive decay process is also known as nuclear fission.

In nuclear physics and nuclear chemistry, nuclear fission is a nuclear reaction or a radioactive decay process in which the nucleus of an atom splits into 2 smaller, lighter nuclei. The fission process often produces gamma photons, and releases a very large amount of energy even by the energetic standards of radioactive decay.


Professional areas

The United States currently generates about 20% of its electricity from nuclear power plants. Nuclear engineers in this field generally work, directly or indirectly, in the nuclear power industry or for national laboratories. Current research in the industry is directed at producing economical and proliferation-resistant reactor designs with passive safety features. Some government (national) labs provide research in the same areas as private industry and in other areas such as nuclear fuels and nuclear fuel cycles, advanced reactor designs, and nuclear weapon design and maintenance. A principal pipeline/source of trained personnel (both military and civilian) for US reactor facilities is the US Navy Nuclear Power Program, including its Nuclear Power School in South Carolina. Employment in nuclear engineering is predicted to grow about nine percent to year 2022 as needed to replace retiring nuclear engineers, provide maintenance and updating of safety systems in power plants, and to advance the applications of nuclear medicine. [1]

United States Department of Energy national laboratories

The United States Department of Energy National Laboratories and Technology Centers are a system of facilities and laboratories overseen by the United States Department of Energy (DOE) for the purpose of advancing science and technology to fulfill the DOE mission. Sixteen of the seventeen DOE national laboratories are federally funded research and development centers administered, managed, operated and staffed by private-sector organizations under management and operating (M&O) contract with DOE.

Nuclear proliferation spread of nuclear weapons to nations not recognized as "Nuclear Weapon States"

Nuclear proliferation is the spread of nuclear weapons, fissionable material, and weapons-applicable nuclear technology and information to nations not recognized as "Nuclear Weapon States" by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, commonly known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty or NPT. Proliferation has been opposed by many nations with and without nuclear weapons, as governments fear that more countries with nuclear weapons will increase the possibility of nuclear warfare, de-stabilize international or regional relations, or infringe upon the national sovereignty of states.

Nuclear fuel material that can be used in nuclear fission or fusion to derive nuclear energy

Nuclear fuel is material used in nuclear power stations to produce heat to power turbines. Heat is created when nuclear fuel undergoes nuclear fission.

Nuclear medicine and medical physics

Medical physics is an important field of nuclear medicine; its sub-fields include nuclear medicine, radiation therapy, health physics, and diagnostic imaging. [2] Highly specialized and intricately operating equipment, including x-ray machines, MRI and PET scanners and many other devices provide most of modern medicine's diagnostic capability—along with disclosing subtle treatment options.

Medical physics application of physics concepts, theories and methods to medicine or healthcare

Medical physics is, in general, the application of physics concepts, theories, and methods to medicine or healthcare. Medical physics departments may be found in hospitals or universities.

Nuclear medicine is a medical specialty involving the application of radioactive substances in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. Nuclear medicine imaging, in a sense, is "radiology done inside out" or "endoradiology" because it records radiation emitting from within the body rather than radiation that is generated by external sources like X-rays. In addition, nuclear medicine scans differ from radiology as the emphasis is not on imaging anatomy but the function and for such reason, it is called a physiological imaging modality. Single photon emission computed tomography (SPECT) and positron emission tomography (PET) scans are the two most common imaging modalities in nuclear medicine.

Radiation therapy therapy using ionizing radiation

Radiation therapy or radiotherapy, often abbreviated RT, RTx, or XRT, is therapy using ionizing radiation, generally as part of cancer treatment to control or kill malignant cells and normally delivered by a linear accelerator. Radiation therapy may be curative in a number of types of cancer if they are localized to one area of the body. It may also be used as part of adjuvant therapy, to prevent tumor recurrence after surgery to remove a primary malignant tumor. Radiation therapy is synergistic with chemotherapy, and has been used before, during, and after chemotherapy in susceptible cancers. The subspecialty of oncology concerned with radiotherapy is called radiation oncology.

Nuclear materials

Nuclear materials research focuses on two main subject areas, nuclear fuels and irradiation-induced modification of nuclear materials. Improvement of nuclear fuels is crucial for obtaining increased efficiency from nuclear reactors. Irradiation effects studies have many purposes, including studying structural changes to reactor components and studying nano-modification of metals using ion-beams or particle accelerators.

Nanotechnology ("nanotech") is manipulation of matter on an atomic, molecular, and supramolecular scale. The earliest, widespread description of nanotechnology referred to the particular technological goal of precisely manipulating atoms and molecules for fabrication of macroscale products, also now referred to as molecular nanotechnology. A more generalized description of nanotechnology was subsequently established by the National Nanotechnology Initiative, which defines nanotechnology as the manipulation of matter with at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometers. This definition reflects the fact that quantum mechanical effects are important at this quantum-realm scale, and so the definition shifted from a particular technological goal to a research category inclusive of all types of research and technologies that deal with the special properties of matter which occur below the given size threshold. It is therefore common to see the plural form "nanotechnologies" as well as "nanoscale technologies" to refer to the broad range of research and applications whose common trait is size.

Focused ion beam

Focused ion beam, also known as FIB, is a technique used particularly in the semiconductor industry, materials science and increasingly in the biological field for site-specific analysis, deposition, and ablation of materials. A FIB setup is a scientific instrument that resembles a scanning electron microscope (SEM). However, while the SEM uses a focused beam of electrons to image the sample in the chamber, a FIB setup uses a focused beam of ions instead. FIB can also be incorporated in a system with both electron and ion beam columns, allowing the same feature to be investigated using either of the beams. FIB should not be confused with using a beam of focused ions for direct write lithography. These are generally quite different systems where the material is modified by other mechanisms.

Uraninite oxide mineral

Uraninite, formerly pitchblende, is a radioactive, uranium-rich mineral and ore with a chemical composition that is largely UO2, but due to oxidation the mineral typically contains variable proportions of U3O8. Additionally, due to radioactive decay, the ore also contains oxides of lead and trace amounts of helium. It may also contain thorium and rare earth elements.

Radiation protection and measurement

Radiation measurement is fundamental to the science and practice of radiation protection, sometimes known as radiological protection, which is the protection of people and the environment from the harmful effects of uncontrolled radiation.[ citation needed ]

Nuclear engineers and radiological scientists are interested in developing more advanced ionizing radiation measurement and detection systems, and using these advances to improve imaging technologies; these areas include detector design, fabrication and analysis, measurements of fundamental atomic and nuclear parameters, and radiation imaging systems, among others.

Nuclear engineering organizations

See also

Related Research Articles

Nuclear reactor device to initiate and control a sustained nuclear chain reaction

A nuclear reactor, formerly known as an atomic pile, is a device used to initiate and control a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction. Nuclear reactors are used at nuclear power plants for electricity generation and in nuclear marine propulsion. Heat from nuclear fission is passed to a working fluid, which in turn runs through steam turbines. These either drive a ship's propellers or turn electrical generators' shafts. Nuclear generated steam in principle can be used for industrial process heat or for district heating. Some reactors are used to produce isotopes for medical and industrial use, or for production of weapons-grade plutonium. As of early 2019, the IAEA reports there are 454 nuclear power reactors and 226 nuclear research reactors in operation around the world.

Beta particle ionizing radiation

A beta particle, also called beta ray or beta radiation, is a high-energy, high-speed electron or positron emitted by the radioactive decay of an atomic nucleus during the process of beta decay. There are two forms of beta decay, β decay and β+ decay, which produce electrons and positrons respectively.

Nuclear technology Technology that involves the reactions of atomic nuclei

Nuclear technology is technology that involves the nuclear reactions of atomic nuclei. Among the notable nuclear technologies are nuclear reactors, nuclear medicine and nuclear weapons. It is also used, among other things, in smoke detectors and gun sights.

Pebble-bed reactor graphite-moderated, gas-cooled nuclear reactor

The pebble-bed reactor (PBR) is a design for a graphite-moderated, gas-cooled nuclear reactor. It is a type of very-high-temperature reactor (VHTR), one of the six classes of nuclear reactors in the Generation IV initiative. The basic design of pebble-bed reactors features spherical fuel elements called pebbles. These tennis ball-sized pebbles are made of pyrolytic graphite, and they contain thousands of micro-fuel particles called TRISO particles. These TRISO fuel particles consist of a fissile material surrounded by a coated ceramic layer of silicon carbide for structural integrity and fission product containment. In the PBR, thousands of pebbles are amassed to create a reactor core, and are cooled by a gas, such as helium, nitrogen or carbon dioxide, that does not react chemically with the fuel elements.

Ionizing radiation Radiation that carries enough light energy to liberate electrons from atoms or molecules

Ionizing radiation is radiation that carries sufficient energy to detach electrons from atoms or molecules, thereby ionizing them. Ionizing radiation is made up of energetic subatomic particles, ions or atoms moving at high speeds, and electromagnetic waves on the high-energy end of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Scintillation counter

A scintillation counter is an instrument for detecting and measuring ionizing radiation by using the excitation effect of incident radiation on a scintillating material, and detecting the resultant light pulses.

Nuclear fission product product of nuclear fission

Nuclear fission products are the atomic fragments left after a large atomic nucleus undergoes nuclear fission. Typically, a large nucleus like that of uranium fissions by splitting into two smaller nuclei, along with a few neutrons, the release of heat energy, and gamma rays. The two smaller nuclei are the fission products..

Open-pool Australian lightwater reactor architectural structure

The Open-pool Australian lightwater reactor (OPAL) is a 20 megawatt (MW) pool-type nuclear research reactor. Officially opened in April 2007, it replaced the High Flux Australian Reactor as Australia's only nuclear reactor, and is located at the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) Research Establishment in Lucas Heights, New South Wales, a suburb of Sydney. Both OPAL and its predecessor have been commonly known as simply the Lucas Heights reactor, after their location.

The ionization chamber is the simplest of all gas-filled radiation detectors, and is widely used for the detection and measurement of certain types of ionizing radiation; X-rays, gamma rays, and beta particles. Conventionally, the term "ionization chamber" is used exclusively to describe those detectors which collect all the charges created by direct ionization within the gas through the application of an electric field. It only uses the discrete charges created by each interaction between the incident radiation and the gas, and does not involve the gas multiplication mechanisms used by other radiation instruments, such as the Geiger counter or the proportional counter.

Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research

Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research(IGCAR) is one of India's premier nuclear research centres. It is the second largest establishment of the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), next to Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), located at Kalpakkam, 80 km south of Chennai, India. It was established in 1971 as an exclusive centre dedicated to the pursuit of fast reactor science and technology, due to the vision of Dr. Vikram Sarabhai. Originally, it was called as Reactor Research Centre (RRC). It was renamed as Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research(IGCAR) by the then Prime Minister of India, Rajiv Gandhi in December 1985. The centre is engaged in broad-based multidisciplinary programme of scientific research and advanced engineering directed towards the development of Fast Breeder Reactor technology, in India.

Reactor pressure vessel Nuclear power plant component

A reactor pressure vessel (RPV) in a nuclear power plant is the pressure vessel containing the nuclear reactor coolant, core shroud, and the reactor core.

The IEEE Nuclear and Plasma Sciences Society (NPSS) is a transnational group of about 3000 professional engineers and scientists. The IEEE-affiliated Society sponsors five major annual, and 12 biennial conferences and symposia. It also sponsors or co-sponsor four peer-reviewed academic journals.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to nuclear technology:

Washington State University Reactor

The Washington State University Reactor (WSUR) is housed in the Washington State University Nuclear Radiation Center (WSUNRC), and was completed in 1961. The (then) Washington State College Reactor was the brainchild of Harold W. Dodgen, a former researcher on the Manhattan Project where he earned his PhD from 1943 to 1946. He secured funding for the ambitious 'Reactor Project' from the National Science Foundation, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the College administration totaling $479,000. Dodgen's basis for constructing a reactor was that the College was primly located as a training facility for the Hanford site, as well as Idaho National Laboratory because there was no other research reactor in the West at that time. After completing the extensive application and design process with the help of contractors from General Electric they broke ground in August 1957 and the first criticality was achieved on March 7, 1961 at a power level of 1W. They gradually increased power over the next year to achieve their maximum licensed operating power of 100 kW.

The Nucifer Experiment is a proposed test of equipment and methodologies for using neutrino detection for the monitoring of nuclear reactor activity and the assessment of the isotopic composition of reactor fuels for non-proliferation treaty compliance monitoring. Based upon an idea proposed by L.A. Mikaélyan in 1977, the Nucifer Experiment was proposed to the IAEA in October 2008.

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to nuclear power:

Philippine Nuclear Research Institute Agency of the Philippine government

The Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) is a government agency under the Department of Science and Technology mandated to undertake research and development activities in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, institute regulations on the said uses, and carry out the enforcement of said regulations to protect the health and safety of radiation workers and the general public.

Windscale Piles

The Windscale Piles were a pair of air-cooled graphite-moderated nuclear reactors on the northwest coast of England in Cumberland. The two reactors, referred to at the time as "piles", were built as part of the British post-war atomic bomb project.


  1. "Nuclear Engineers – Job Outlook" in Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014–15. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor
  2. Medical Physicist. American Association of Physicists in Medicine

Further reading