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What Nuclear Technicians Do

Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear production. They operate special equipment used in these activities and monitor the levels of radiation that are produced.


Nuclear technicians typically do the following:

Job duties and titles of nuclear technicians often depend on where they work and what purpose the facility serves. Most nuclear technicians work in nuclear power plants, where they ensure that reactors and other equipment are operated safely and efficiently. Two examples of technicians who work in nuclear power plants are operating technicians and radiation protection technicians.

Operating technicians use computers, gauges, and other instruments to monitor the performance of nuclear power plants under the supervision of nuclear reactor operators and engineers. They base calculations on factors such as temperature, pressure, and radiation intensity to determine whether equipment is functioning properly. Operating technicians must make adjustments to improve the performance of reactors and other equipment, such as opening and closing valves and electrical breakers.  

Radiation protection technicians monitor radiation levels at nuclear power plants to protect personnel, facilities, and the surrounding environment from contamination. They use radiation detectors to measure levels in the environment and dosimeters to measure the levels present in people and objects. Radiation protection technicians also are responsible for setting up and testing instruments that monitor radiation levels remotely. They use the data collected by these instruments to map radiation levels throughout the plant and the surrounding environment. From their findings, they recommend radioactive decontamination plans and safety procedures for personnel. 

Nuclear technicians also work in waste management and treatment facilities, where they monitor the disposal, recycling, and storage of nuclear waste.  They perform duties similar to those of radiation protection technicians at nuclear power plants.

Other nuclear technicians work in laboratories. They help nuclear physicists, nuclear engineers, and other scientists conduct research and develop new types of nuclear reactors, fuels, medicines, and other technologies. They use equipment such as radiation detectors, spectrometers (used to measure gamma ray and x-ray radiation), and particle accelerators to conduct experiments and gather data. They also may use remote-controlled equipment to manipulate radioactive materials or materials exposed to radiation. 

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition