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What Does a Nuclear Power Engineer Do?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2016
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A nuclear power engineer works in nuclear power plants or development and research facilities that focus on the use of nuclear power as an energy source. This work can include supervising operations, developing safety protocols, and working on new equipment and designs to increase the safety and efficiency of nuclear power. This type of work can be highly variable and involves working with other staff members and scientists to accomplish common goals of interest and concern.

At a facility actively generating nuclear power, the nuclear power engineer can supervise plant operations, schedules, and activities. The engineer monitors power production and usage, inspects equipment, schedules cleaning and other maintenance, and meets with regulators and other officials. When the plant is subject to inspection for safety, the nuclear power engineer interacts with the inspectors to show them around, answer questions, and address safety concerns.

This work can also involve meeting with power officials to discuss the load on the plant, as well as activities that might affect a nuclear power plant, like natural disasters, scheduled outages for maintenance, and other events that could create a draw on the power grid. If the plant is not prepared, it could fail to meet consumer demand. Ill-prepared plants without adequate systems in place to address natural disasters and other crises could also be in danger of a reactor meltdown or another hazardous event.

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In research settings, a nuclear power engineer works to develop safer methods for generating nuclear power with higher efficiency and better performance. This can include everything from designing new reactor systems to developing better containment for waste from a plant. This work can involve plants on ships and submarines as well as fixed facilities on land used to generate electricity for the general grid. Research can also involve work with regulatory officials to discuss proposed legislation and make it effective and useful for the power industry.

A nuclear power engineer can also work for a government agency as an inspector and investigator. These professionals supervise inspections of nuclear power plants for safety violations or issues that may be of concern, although they may not violate the existing code. They can work with power plants to address these matters, and also submit reports to government agencies to discuss the overall state of the nuclear power industry. This work requires an understanding of nuclear engineering, regulations, and government concerns and priorities, all of which can shape regulatory responses to the nuclear power community.

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