What Does a Nuclear Technician Do?
If you’re interested in science and technology, consider becoming a nuclear technician. These specialized technicians, also called nuclear mechanics or nuclear techs, work in nuclear energy production or nuclear research.
Technicians ensure nuclear reactors and other equipment are operated safely and efficiently. They monitor the levels of radiation produced. They also repair and maintain equipment used at the facility.
Other duties depend on the kind of facility where a technician works. At nuclear power plants, for example, technicians monitor nuclear waste storage and disposal. There are also specific types of nuclear technicians.
Operating technicians work at nuclear power plants where they monitor reactors and system performance. They also measure radiation levels in water.
Radiation protection technicians are more focused on radiation contamination and keeping people in and around a nuclear facility safe. They use specialized equipment, such as Geiger counters and dosimeters, to continuously measure radiation levels. They also create decontamination plans to respond to a leak.
Some nuclear technicians work in labs. They help engineers and scientists conduct research. That could mean nuclear medicine, developing new types of reactors and fuel or even working with particle accelerators.
Sound interesting? Keep on reading to learn more.
- Monitor the performance of nuclear reactors and other equipment
- Operate and maintain radiation monitoring equipment and measure radiation levels
- Test for radioactive contamination
- Collect and test samples of air, water and soil
- Follow all safety procedures, including wearing special gear such as hardhats and protective suits
- Instruct other personnel on radiation safety
How To Become A Nuclear Technician: FAQs
What training do I need?
A high school diploma or equivalent is required, so focus on science and math classes if you haven’t earned your diploma yet. Most employers look for an associate degree in nuclear science or nuclear technology. Some technicians gain extensive experience through the U.S. Navy’s Naval Nuclear Power School.
Many community colleges and technical schools offer nuclear technology programs. For example, a two-year associate degree would include courses on nuclear energy, physics, chemistry, electricity, radiation and mathematics.
All technicians get rigorous, supervised on-the-job training that includes equipment operation and monitoring as well as safety procedures. Most training programs last between six months and two years for a fully trained technician.
Some nuclear technicians earn a bachelor’s degree.
What other qualifications do I need?
A background check and security clearance are typically required for a technician job or training.
Certification is not required but it is recommended. Groups that offer certification programs include the Nuclear Energy Institute, the American Society for Nondestructive Testing and the National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists.
Continuing education is common to keep up with the technology. For those who pursue higher levels of education or career advancement, a license may be required.
Where and when do these technicians work?
Nuclear techs typically work at nuclear power plants, but they also are needed in research labs and some manufacturing facilities.
These are usually full-time, well-paying jobs. (That’s why this career is one of SkillPointe’s highest-paying skilled jobs that don’t require a bachelor’s degree.)
For those who work in power production, night, holiday and weekend work may be required.
Is there a demand for nuclear technicians?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook is mixed. As with power plant operators, there are fewer job openings for this specialized role but technicians will be needed as new reactors come online.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
Successful nuclear technicians tend to possess these traits:
- Excellent communications skills
- Good computer skills
- Strong analytical and critical thinking skills
- Excel at math and science
- Strong mechanical aptitude
- Highly safety-conscious
Not everyone can make it in this career, but if you love science and technology, it could be a good fit. You’ll work with nuclear engineers, physicists and other scientists to either produce a vital energy source or to work on important research.