Individuals who have a background in the nuclear sciences can look forward to a rewarding career in many business sectors of the nuclear industry: power, medicine, food, and research.
Nuclear power is governed by a process known as nuclear fission. This is the mechanism which is used to generate heat inside a nuclear reactor. Fission occurs when a neutron is absorbed by an atom (usually uranium) which subsequently results in the splitting of the atom. The splitting or fissioning of the atom is due to the instability of the atom once it absorbs a neutron. When an atom undergoes fission, fission fragments are released in the form of lighter nuclei. Neutrons, gamma rays, and charged particles are also released, producing an enormous amount of energy in the form of heat. The heat produced is transferred in the form of steam which is used to drive turbines. The turbines in turn drive an electrical generator that produces electricity. A select number of potential employers in the nuclear power industry are listed below.
- Westinghouse Nuclear
- General Electric
- Southern Company
- Tennessee Valley Authority
- First Energy
- Nextra Energy
- SCANA Energy
- Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory
- United States Navy Nuclear Propulsion Program
The field of nuclear medicine focuses on the use of radiation and implementation of radionuclides for medical diagnostics and treatment of diseases. In non-interventional diagnostic imaging, instruments such as CAT Scans and X-Ray machines are used. In interventional nuclear diagnostics radiopharmaceuticals are administered to patients; and gamma-ray detectors are used to capture images from the emitted radiation inside the patient. In radiotherapy, radiation is used to destroy cancerous cells within the body. Radiotherapy consists of three sub-fields: external beam radiation therapy, brachytherapy (internal), and unsealed source radiotherapy.
Individuals who are interested in nuclear medicine should have a solid background in nuclear reactions and the various radioactive decay processes which accompany them. A list of employers within the nuclear medicine industry is listed below.
- Siemens Medical Solutions
- Varian Medical Equipment
- Radiation Decontamination Solutions
- GE Healthcare
Food irradiation is the process whereby ionizing radiation is used to kill bacteria and any microorganisms that may be present in food. Killing the bacteria enables the food to stay fresh for a longer period of time when compared to foods that haven't been irradiated. Food irradiation is notably important in the agriculture industry to protect fruits and vegetables from pests. Also, viruses such as the E.coli virus in meat products can be treated by irradiation. A list of employers within the food irradiation industry is listed below.
One of the leading disciplines within the nuclear industry is the field of research. Since the nuclear industry is a continually evolving field, there are always demands for qualified researchers that will be needed to support its growth. Researchers in the nuclear industry work with some of the most sophisticated technological systems in the world. Due to the nature of the work, most researchers will be required to maintain a security clearance. Areas of research in the nuclear industry include but are not limited to: nuclear reactor physics, radiation detection, radiation protection, nuclear safeguards, nuclear reactor thermal hydraulics, environmental impact, emergency procedures and computer code development. A list of employers within the research industry is listed below.
- Oak Ridge National Laboratory
- Brookhaven National Laboratory
- Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
- Argonne National Laboratory
- Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
- Sandia National Laboratories
- Idaho National Laboratory