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PostSubject: Nuclear engineering   Sun Jul 01, 2012 3:06 pm

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

Nuclear fission

Nuclear fission is the disintegration of a susceptible (fissile)
atom's nucleus into two different, smaller elements and other particles
including neutrons. Approximately 2.7 neutrons are released per
fission, which may cause additional fissions if enough fissionable
material is present. Nuclear fission is made by separating one atom or
combining two different atoms.

The common types of nuclear fission include thermal fission, which is fission caused by the absorption of a relatively slow thermal neutron with kinetic energy approximately 0.125 eV.
Fast fission is fission caused by the absorption of a more energetic
neutron, with kinetic energy on the order of MeV. Also, in especially
heavy nuclei, spontaneous fission
may occur. Nuclei that are fissionable by neutrons typically carry at
least a very small chance of spontaneous fission occurring.

Generally, thermal fission is used in commercial reactors, though Fast Breeder Reactors have been developed to harness fast fission.

The United States gets about 19 % of its electricity from nuclear power.[2] 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, proliferation-resistant
reactor designs with passive safety features. Although government labs
research the same areas as industry, they also study a myriad of other
issues such as nuclear fuels and nuclear fuel cycles, advanced reactor designs, and nuclear weapon design and maintenance. A principal pipeline for trained personnel for US reactor facilities is the Navy Nuclear Power Program.

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    Nuclear Powerplant

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    B-61 thermonuclear weapon

Nuclear medicine and medical physics

An important field is medical physics, and its subfields nuclear medicine, radiation therapy, health physics, and diagnostic imaging.[3] From x-ray machines to MRI to PET,
among many others, medical physics provides most of modern medicine's
diagnostic capability along with providing many treatment options.

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    X-Ray Image of a male skull

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    Magnetic Resonance Imaging scan of a head

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    PET taken with an ECAT Exact HR+ PET Scanner

Nuclear materials and nuclear fuels

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

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    Uranium ore, the principal raw material of nuclear fuel

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    Nuclear fuel pellets

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    A Focused ion beam

Radiation measurements and dosimetry

Nuclear engineers and radiological scientists are interested in the
development of more advanced ionizing radiation measurement and
detection systems, and using these to improve imaging technologies. This
includes detector design, fabrication and analysis, measurements of
fundamental atomic and nuclear parameters, and radiation imaging
systems, among other things.

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    A modern Geiger counter

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    A neutron detector

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    Scintillation detector next to Uraninite

Nuclear engineering organizations

  • American Nuclear Society
  • Nuclear Institute (UK)
  • International Atomic Energy Agency

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