Nuclear Engineering, the Field...

Nuclear Engineering is fundamentally concerned with harnessing the power of the atom to benefit mankind.

The field of nuclear engineering is extremely diverse and involves the imaginative integration of several disciplines, to include:

  • atomic, nuclear, radiation, and plasma physics
  • mathematics
  • thermal-hydraulics
  • materials and structures
  • instrumentation
  • high performance computing

For that reason, graduate students in the field come from a variety of undergraduate preparations and seek interdisciplinary couplings and collaborations.

Historically, the field of nuclear engineering has been tied to; (1) the design and manufacturing of the nuclear weapons that helped win World War II and the Cold War; (2) with the development of nuclear propulsion systems for the Navy's submarines and aircraft carriers that have given the U.S. a global presence; and (3) the design and construction of nuclear electric power plants and fuels that have contributed to a pollution-free environment and energy security for the Nation. Even since the early days of the field, however, nuclear engineers have also contributed to the development of accelerators, detectors, instruments and space probes used for the fundamental exploration of sub-atomic particles, the structure of matter, the nature of the Earth's upper atmosphere and the evolution of our universe. They have also contributed to the fundamental understanding of radiation effects on materials and biological systems that have led to new industrial, pharmaceutical, and medical uses of radiation, plasmas and radioisotopes.

Looking to the future, the field of nuclear engineering will become even more important and diverse. Nuclear engineers will contribute to such advanced technologies as advanced fission and fusion power generators, new medical technologies and procedures, more powerful computational methods, deep-space probes and propulsion systems, semiconductor device processes, improved food safety, advanced materials processing and characterization, advanced imaging, the safe treatment and disposal of spent nuclear fuel, and new forms of industrial gauges, among many other exciting opportunities. Nuclear engineers will continue to be at the vanguard of tomorrow's technologies and the establishment of entirely new industries for economic growth.