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PostPosted: Mar 06, 2010 9:37 am 
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Demand grows for nuclear engineering graduates
New technology increases need Job rate is 100 % for some programs

By TERRENCE BELFORD, Canwest News Service, March 6, 2010

A few classes in Grade 12 physics was enough to convince Jeffrey Hunt where his career would lie. He was so fascinated by the power of electrons, protons and neutrons that he decided to become a nuclear engineer.

"Those classes really struck a chord," says Hunt, now 22 and a fourth-year student in nuclear engineering at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in Oshawa. "So I did some research. I read some articles that said 40 per cent of all engineers working in the nuclear field would be retiring in the next 10 years.

"That seemed to me to suggest there would be lots of demand for nuclear engineers and you could count on advancement. So I enrolled at UOIT."

The challenge for anyone considering that career path, however, is where to gain the necessary education. While at least 11 engineering schools across Canada offer some form of nuclear courses, only one grants a degree in that specialty - the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

He applied, was accepted and has thrived. He already has a job on graduation as an analyst with Nuclear Safety Solutions, a Toronto-based consulting company. The pay is good - the range for new graduates is between $55,000 and $66,000 a year, he says - and there is the potential to do postgraduate work on the company's dime.

"I think this degree opens the door to all kinds of possibilities."

Possibilities indeed, says Basma Shalaby, president of the University Network of Excellence in Nuclear Engineering. The network was established in 2002 to promote the development of highly skilled nuclear engineers.

"Canada's nuclear sector is about to expand greatly," she says. "And as it does there will be demand for all kinds of engineers. Only 20 per cent of them will be nuclear engineers but that still represents significant numbers."

By her estimate, Canada's 22 nuclear power stations and three other nuclear facilities such as the medical isotope reactor at Chalk River and university reactors at places such as McMaster in Hamilton and Royal Military College in Kingston employ about 4,000 engineers.

She cites Nuclear Energy Association statistics that suggest 50 per cent of all workers involved in power generation - including nuclear - will be eligible for retirement within five to 10 years, and 40 per cent of nuclear industry workers are within 10 years of retirement.

"That is just at facilities operating today. The demand for new sources of clean energy and the rapidly increasing need for medical isotopes and irradiation technology means new facilities are certain to be built and existing ones expanded in the near-term future," she says.

"Demand for nuclear engineers is certain to be strong well into the future."

The challenge lies in gaining a degree in nuclear engineering. At RMC, for example, the university has its own reactor but only offers a single course in nuclear to third-year chemical engineering students.

"There was a time when we had two term courses but cutbacks in funding and the closing of College Militaire Royal de St. Jean, in Quebec, and Royal Roads, in British Columbia, meant we had to rethink our resources," says Hughes Bonin, professor of nuclear engineering.

Now the focus is on using its graduate school to provide specialized training to military officers.

"An officer may find himself or herself posted to a base where a masters is required, so they come back here to get it," says professor Brent Lewis, UNENE, COG and INSERC industrial research chair at RMC.

Like most top schools, McMaster University in Hamilton does not grant degrees in nuclear engineering but does offer nuclear as a specialty starting in third year for those studying engineering physics. Students can take one of three streams - nuclear, silicon technology or optics, says John Luxat, professor of engineering and UNENE industrial research chair in nuclear safety analysis.

"Nuclear is now the most popular third-year stream, with half the 60 students in the class opting for it," he says. "When they graduate, the demand is so high that 100 per cent of those looking for immediate jobs find them quickly.

"A few years ago, engineering schools cut back on courses in nuclear engineering because demand for graduates dropped. Now, because of advances in technology in areas like irradiation of food, medical isotopes and the demand for clean energy, the job market is very hot again. We see a glowing future for graduates."

UOIT's leadership were aware of that future promise as early as 2003. That was the year the university opened its doors and simultaneously launched its nuclear engineering degree program.

George Bereznai, dean of the faculty of energy systems and nuclear energy, says the 100 students UOIT accepts into the program each fall get to choose from three options.

They can take a straight four-year degree course or a five-year course that includes a year's internship, or a five-year course that earns them a bachelor's degree in management and nuclear engineering.

"Demand for seats is very strong," he says. "Last year we had 300 applicants for 100 spaces in the program. We look for a 70 per cent average in high school. Our experience has shown that gives students about an 80 per cent chance of success."

Hunt says while the program was challenging, it was well worth it. "I found that I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would," he says. "And besides it has given me a great paying job in an expanding field."


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PostPosted: Mar 06, 2010 1:38 pm 
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Good, there's a backup plan for when the space program goes under...


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PostPosted: Mar 06, 2010 3:59 pm 
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jaro wrote:
........The challenge lies in gaining a degree in nuclear engineering. At RMC, for example, the university has its own reactor but only offers a single course in nuclear to third-year chemical engineering students......
I wonder how common this path is? A nuclear engineer with a chem eng background ought to be a natural LFTR fan.


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PostPosted: Mar 06, 2010 5:09 pm 
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A fairly recent paper from RMC proposed an aqueous fuel solution version of the popular SLOWPOKE research reactor for producing radiopharmaceuticals.

Of course, this being Canada, it fell on deaf ears.....


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PostPosted: Mar 07, 2010 6:22 am 
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jaro wrote:
A fairly recent paper from RMC proposed an aqueous fuel solution version of the popular SLOWPOKE research reactor for producing radiopharmaceuticals.

Of course, this being Canada, it fell on deaf ears.....


I doubt that such an idea would get passed any safety authority...

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PostPosted: Jul 15, 2010 5:53 pm 
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OK, this thread started out with an article about nuclear deucation in Cada...but what about the USA? The starting salary didn't sound that impressive. I mean, yeah it's good money to live on, depending on where you are. But computer stuff pays more. Software is where I've spent most of my life, and though I am currently unemployed I have made some salaries considerably higher than the quoted Canadian one (even worse, in Canadian dollars).

Though I am older than most college students, I am going to graduate from the night school of the world's most prestigious university...Harvard. But I have not a single course in Physics, never mind nuclear physics. What would my educational opportunities be? I am only OK in math. I haven't taken any GREs. Is there any chance of me getting into a master's degree program without a bacherlor's in the field? Does it take good GRE scores?

I have US citizenship, but would consider universities abroad. I speak a smattering of French and German. That's to say I can read signs and get the gyst. I don't imagine Germany has much to offer anyhow, as they've turned anti-nuke thanks to the 'green' party. France seems to disrespect everyone else. But perhaps Canada would be comfortable. Perhaps Ireland. Maybe the UK, NZ, or Australia.

Of course, I'd like to attend a university that has an idea of what LFTR is. Ideally, I'd like to study with a professor who supports it. What universities might that be?

I am personally of the opinion, as semi-informed as it might be, that LFTR is the solution to the energy crisis that mankind is currently facing. The country, corporation, and persons involved in bringing its ascendance about will be richly rewarded and well regarded.


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PostPosted: Jul 16, 2010 5:46 am 
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RKeyes wrote:
I have US citizenship, but would consider universities abroad. I speak a smattering of French and German. That's to say I can read signs and get the gyst. I don't imagine Germany has much to offer anyhow, as they've turned anti-nuke thanks to the 'green' party. France seems to disrespect everyone else. But perhaps Canada would be comfortable. Perhaps Ireland. Maybe the UK, NZ, or Australia.

Of course, I'd like to attend a university that has an idea of what LFTR is. Ideally, I'd like to study with a professor who supports it. What universities might that be?


Oh sure, just forget Belgium...That's the country where they both speak French, Dutch and German...So lectures and so forth are given in English when it comes down to the national nuclear engineering courses. However, you already need a masters degree in Engineering of Physics.

France has the INSTN, where professors from abroad occasionally lecture and this education is also given in English.

Germany may be considered anti-nuke, but come on! It's not because they have a government who's against it and isn't really stimulating education, that this means that there isn't a superb education there! Many interesting concepts come from Germany! And you're forgetting Swiss...

And finding a pro-MSR professor is difficult because MSR falls quite beyond the common neutronic and thermalhydraulic knowledge. And therefore it's commonly discussed as a reactor concepts without much additional. Therefore the only option for this, and many other concepts, is reading, reading and more reading.

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PostPosted: Jul 16, 2010 10:17 am 
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But there are professors who do research on MSR's. Dr. Peterson at UCB (I know he doesn't put the fuel in the salt yet). In France Dr. Merle-Lucotte leads the most active effort in LFTR that I know of. I'd check with Kirk about the school he's going to. Otherwise, you could check for papers written on MSRs by professors to see whose got an interest (I recall one from Belgium).


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PostPosted: Jul 16, 2010 3:18 pm 
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Dr. Uhlir from UJV Rez told me he teaches a MSR oriented class at Czech Technical University in Prague - http://www-en.fjfi.cvut.cz

PS: Czech language is fun!


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PostPosted: Jul 16, 2010 4:57 pm 
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There is a possibility I might be teaching this class this fall at Tennessee Tech.


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PostPosted: Jul 16, 2010 5:33 pm 
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OK, so I left out a few countries. Sorry. My Czech is going to be horrible, as I have never studied any Slavic language. Yes, I could study in Switzerland but would have to learn French and German all over again, as the Swiss accent are really difficult. Belgium, yea, I can do that. France...well maybe the language but like I said, they might hate me for being an American (or for not being French) but at least I don't look like an Arab. Am I being too hard on Europe?

What's more disturbing is the lack of good programs that will involve LFTR. It sounds like I'd have to be indoctrinated into the LWR culture, and then if I was a post-doc, I might be allowed to do some experiments in LFTR. That doesn't work for me. I am American, I am impatient.

I know how to generate neutrons without grat difficulty. I can get thorium. Maybe I can do this all by myself? Now reason why David Hahn should have all the fun. Except he's reckless.

I don't want India or China to win. It is a question of winning, because the cost of energy has a huge effect on the competitiveness of a nation's economy. I might be able to deal with Canada, except for its lack of basic freedom guarantees (freedom of speech, press, self-defense, etc). I might be able to deal with a European country, except they're even worse as far as freedoms go, and taxes are high. I really like seeing those fields of wind turbines when travelling through the German countryside, or at least I did until I found out how inefficient they are. The main reason I supported their existence is because I saw it as a sign that someone, somewhere, was DOING something about the energy situation in the western world. I still believe in wind power, but only in the areas where it can be shown to generate a good return. I'd also like to see some more radical wind turbine designs, such as those which have counter-rotating blades, nacelles, and other interesting technology (what I mention improves efficiency while lessening the deleterious effects of wind buffeting on linkage, which has been a real problem).

I'd like to see international efforts by the US DOE and other bodies to do basic science (or fund & coordinate universities and private research organisations in it) and perhaps some prototype designs of advanced power systems. Then, I'd like for private industry to take this data and make competitive products out of government research. It needs to be happening NOW, not waiting for the global recession to end. I thought when Obama was elected, I'd see more money being pumped into alternative energy research and education, but it doesn't seem to have happened.

Perhaps my comments are moving out of the 'Canada' section on this site. Sorry. I like Canada. I've been to Montreal and Vancouver, and I like both cities (though I like Vancouver a bit better). I plan on visiting Nova Scotia some time soon. I like a lot of what I see in Canadian culture (restraint, responsibility, humility).

-Bob, of Boston


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PostPosted: Jul 16, 2010 5:34 pm 
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ondrejch wrote:
PS: Czech language is fun!

:lol:

...yeah, right -- that's why we have the world's highest population of stutterers per capita :lol:


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PostPosted: Jul 16, 2010 5:37 pm 
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Kirk Sorensen wrote:
There is a possibility I might be teaching this class this fall at Tennessee Tech.


Sounds good...do you have more info? Is distance-education (online) a possibility? Beyond the couse numbers, what is the prerequisite knowledge?

If you want to teach at Harvard's continuing ed, let me know, I can put you in touch with some people (Harvard Extension School is where I am enrollled right now).


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