Nuclear technicians assist engineers, physicists and other scientists in a laboratory, power plant or other production facilities to research, produce and maintain fuels, medicines, reactors and other technologies. A key part of the position is to monitor radiation levels while operating equipment, conduct quality control for nuclear testing and maintain tools in labs.
Duties and responsibilities
- Measure radiation levels and monitor various types of radiations during experiments and power generation
- Calculate radiation times, temperatures, dosages and gamma intensities using formulas and conversion tables
- Operate radiation monitoring equipment and other nuclear technology and tools
- Examine the performance and efficacy of equipment used in experiments and power generation
- Inspect nuclear reactors and determine that they are working correctly
- Make sure that nuclear reactors are operating in a safety capacity and are efficiently handled by other staff members
- Explain to personnel on radiation safety procedures and ensure staff is adheres to protocols
- Identify if on-site workers are conforming to safety standards laid out by the facility or regulatory body
- Determine hazardous conditions – theoretical and in practice – in controlled environments
- Retrieve, process and dispose of nuclear fuel consumed in reactors
- Train interns on radiation protection, nuclear reactor operations and maintenance
Skills and knowledge
AVERAGE WORKING HOURS
Nights, weekends, holidays occasionally
Nuclear technicians generally work 40-hour workweeks.
Since they are primarily employed in power plants that operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, there will be many times when schedules will vary and might include evenings, weekends and holidays.
Also, when power plants temporarily pause operations, whether it is for maintenance or upgrades, nuclear technicians will need to clock in overtime hours.
Nuclear technicians who work in laboratories can anticipate working regular business or office hours.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Associate’s degree in nuclear science or related field
To become a nuclear technician, you will need to possess an associate’s degree, at the very minimum – in nuclear science, nuclear technology, radiation or another related nuclear energy field. In addition, it is important to complete coursework in chemistry, mathematics and physics.
Some employers might make an exception to this part on your résumé if you have obtained equivalent experience in the military, especially in the US Navy.
Although not mandatory, you can increase your chances of employment by gaining certification from either the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the American Society for Nondestructive Testing (ASNT) or the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists (NRRPT).
The future of nuclear is unclear right now. Although governments around the world are pushing for renewable energy, such as wind and solar, energy experts say that nuclear is the way to go. That said, nuclear technicians have the opportunity to transfer their skills and advance in waste treatment and disposal, architectural and engineering services, scientific research and development, and electric power generation.