Click for next page ( 130


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 129
NUCLEAR ENGINEERING CASE STUDY David M. Woodall Idaho National Engineering Laboratory Abstract From its infancy in the Yes, the discipline of nuclear engineering has grown into a mature field with applications as diverse as commercial nuclear power, radiation interaction with matter, fusion energy research, and radiological applications to biology. Early nuclear engineering activities were performed principally by physicists, chemists, and mechanical or chemical engineers. The current nuclear engineering education process produces engineers who are broadly prepared in fundamental engineering sciences, yet uniquely able to solve problems involving nuclear processes and nuclear forces. While many nuclear engineers are employed in the commercial nuclear power industry, the discipline of nuclear engineering produces engineers wad a breadth far beyond that application. The paper is broken down into sections on the emergence, development, and current status of nuclear engineering as a field with a final section on He future of the discipline. Introduction Any study of nuclear engineering would be incomplete without a review of the history and status of commercial nuclear power, which has been the primary driving Influence on the field One should also note Cat both the federal regulation of the nuclear power industry and the public perception of the risk and benefits of nuclear electric power have had a significant influence on Be commercialization of We technology. Comments on tile venous impacts of such factors on the nuclear engineering discipline are also included here. In manY waYs, nuclear engineering is an ideal test bed for studying the flexibility of engineers, for it is a discipline which was born only about 30 years ago, and the industry 129

OCR for page 129
that it supports has seen a number of major upheavals in the intervening period. Engineers and scientists from many disciplines have entered the nuclear engineering field in the past Tree decades and nuclear engineers have seen the thrust of their work take a number of radical changes. Emergence of Nuclear Engineering as a Field The field of nuclear engineering had its roots in the development of commercial nuclear power (Dawson, 19761. The U.S. Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) was formed in 1946 by an act of Congress, with the mission to develop electric power from nuclear energy. The infrastructure of the nuclear weapons development complex from World War ~ was used for the construction and testing of a number of reactor types. In 1948, the AEC approved a plan to build and test four reactor projects, including the Materials Test Reactor (~R) and tile Experimental Breeder Reactor (ERR- to be built at the National Reactor Testing Station (presendy He Idaho National Engineenng Laboratory). Both the Argonne and Oak Ridge Laboratories also were actively involved in the nuclear reactor design and development process. The continued development of commercial nuclear power was enhanced by the passage of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, which established the early development of commercial nuclear power as a national objective, encouraged enhanced industrial participation in the process, and led to the birth of the commercial nuclear industry. In parallel with dais process, Be U.S. Navy engaged in a development program for nuclear- powered propulsion. The commercial nuclear power and nuclear propulsion programs were synergistic, with a cross-fertilizanon of ideas and technologies. Most early work in nuclear engineering was done at the national laboratories under the control of the U.S. government. Research workers in the field had backgrounds from physics, cheesy, or engineenng, typically chemical or mechanical. The decIassif~canon - of this technology in Be mid '50s and the potential for application of nuclear processes to energy production attracted many academics to enter Be field as researchers. A number of academic programs for the study of nuclear eng~neenng were formed initially within existing engineering departments. Between 1955 and 1960 approximately 50 universities had established nuclear engineering degree programs, initially at the graduate level, with an emphasis on neutron diffusion and transport and reactor physics. Table ~ outlines a typical cumculum for the M.S. in nuclear eng~neenng (NE) from the mid 130

OCR for page 129
Table I. Typical M.S. Nuclear Engineering Curriculum in the 1960s 3 Hrs 6 Hrs 3 Hrs 3 Hrs 3 Hrs 3 Hrs 3 Hrs 6 Hrs Nuclear and Radiation Physics Reactor Physics (neutron diffusion and kinetics) Laboratory: Radiation Interaction with Matter Laboratory: Reactor Phenomenology Reactor Technology Nuclear Power Thermal Hydraulics Radiation Shielding Advanced Engineering Mathematics (PDE's, integral functions) . '60s. The emphasis on the phenomenology of neutron interaction with matter and reactor criticality was driven by the physics background of many faculty in the field. The curriculum of that period was principally based on physics, rather than engineering. While early nuclear engineering faculty members had the variety of backgrounds previously noted for the early workers in the field, physics backgrounds were in the majority. Many early nuclear engineers obtained graduate training in the discipline without strong engineering sciences preparation at the undergraduate level. Missing from such backgrounds would be one or more of the fundamental engineering sciences heat transfer, eng~neenng thermodynamics, fluid flow, and engineering materials as well as a significant design expenence. Much of the early work of nuclear engineers including nuclear fuel cycle studies and nuclear fuel management, requiring neutron diffusion and nuclear cnucali~ calculations was in the areas of reactor nuclear design. Fuel performance, radiation health physics, and nuclear power plant operations were emphasized, areas well suited lo the nuclear engineers with a physics background. Because the nuclear engineering discipline has only recently emerged, it is true even today that the senior faculty members of nuclear engineering departments often have degrees from fields over than nuclear engineering. However, retirements during the next 10 years will cause a shift to a preponderance of nuclear engineenng-~a~ned facula. 131

OCR for page 129
Development of Nuclear Engineering The growth of commercial nuclear power in the '60s and '70s led to a strong demand for trained nuclear engineers. The nuclear steam supply system (NSSS) vendors required nuclear engineers for nuclear core design, nuclear Herman hydraulic design, nuclear matenals evaluation, and nuclear safety. Growing concern within the federal establishment about the availability of trained nuclear engineers to develop and manage commercial nuclear power led the AEC to take two actions: (~) a manpower assessment program for nuclear engineering through Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU), which continues to this day, 1 and (2) establishment through ORAU of a nuclear science and engineering fellowship program in order to attract high-quality scientists and engineers into the field. Dunng this penod the electric utilities embraced commercial nuclear power as the electric power source of the future. Utilities rushed to include nuclear power in their planning, and the U.S. commitment by 1975 was for 225 nuclear power plants [the rema nder of the world had a somewhat larger commionent because, while the United States is perceived as having adequate alternative energy resources, including major coal deposits, much of the remainder of the free world has no such option. Thus Weir commitment to nuclear power reduced their reliance on imported energy, specifically petroleum The Internanona1 Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the lead agency in promoting the international use of nuclear energy, has been active since its inception in the development of standards for nuclear power operations and the education and training of nuclear professionals2 i. The electric utilities that ordered nuclear power plants established a hiring program for nuclear engineers in order to manage this new technology. Their primary concern was in radiological control, nuclear regulatory requirements, and nuclear fuel management. it iS noteworthy that the best success records have been achieved by Lose utilities that established senior management commitment and involvement with the construction and operation of their nuclear plants; senior Uris executives who accepted nuclear power 1An annual report on the status of nuclear engineering is published under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Energy and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which inherited the AEC role for nuclear power. The most recent version is Nuclear Engineering, Enrollments and Degrees, 1967 (DOE/ER~370), Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1988. 2 See, for example, Radiation Engineering in the Academic Curriculum, Vienna, Austria: IAEA publishers, 1975. 132

OCR for page 129
plants as part of their electric power mix without direct management involvement fared less well. This growing demand for nuclear engineers within the electnc utilities caused additional pressure on nuclear eng~neenng departments for production of graduates. By the mid yes, most universities with nuclear engineering departments had initiated undergraduate degree programs, making the B.S. degree in nuclear engineering more commonplace in the industry. As noted previously, the nuclear engineers of the '60s and early Is were typically trained at Be undergraduate level in another discipline, followed by a 30-hour M.S. program in nuclear engineering. With Be advent of the B.S. in nuclear engineering, it was possible to take Be core curriculum in mechanical or chemical engineering and modify the junior and senior years to include a specific emphasis in nuclear. It should be noted that the B.S. in nuclear eng~neenng covers the same basic engineering science as a B.S. in mechanical engineering (ME). The upper-level course work for a B.S. in nuclear engineering is outlined in Table 2. The following topics are usually included in the freshman and sophomore years of bow curricula: physics through modern physics, chemistry, mathematics through calculus and differential equations, thermodynamics, fluids, heat transfer, statics, electronics, materials science, and engineering economics. In addition, the nuclear engineering student studies advanced atomic and nuclear physics, radiation interaction with matter, radiation measurements and instrumentation, statistics of counting, neutron and reactor physics, nuclear thermal hydraulics, radiation shielding and safety, as well as nuclear licensing and regulation. There is an emphasis in both Be ME and Be NE curriculum on laboratory work and eng~neenng design, the synthesis of engineering sciences for a solution to an open-ended problem. While the B.S. mechanical engineer and the B.S. nuclear engineer have a common heritage, there are many tasks in the nuclear power industry for which the B.S. nuclear engineer is uniquely qualified. Areas that require the nuclear engineering degree include radiation shielding and health physics, reactor neutronics, reactor instrumentation and control, and radiological waste management Common areas of work include project management, operations, and engineering design of components and systems. Recognizing the strong demand for nuclear engineering in the early yes, a number of mechanical and chemical engineering departments initiated a nuclear engineering option program for their undergraduate students. These programs produce a B.S. in the relevant engineering discipline, wig a minor in nuclear engineering. Individuals with such degrees 133

OCR for page 129
Table 2. Modern Upper-Leve! B.S. Nuclear Engineering Curriculum Semester I Junior Year: Senior Year: Semester II Engineering Maw Atomic and Nuclear Physics Engineering Economics Reactor Technology Engineering Materials Reactor Physics ~ Nuclear Thermal Hydraulics Reactor Safety and Licensing Technical Elective Nuclear Design I Statistics Reactor Physics ~ Fluids and Heat Flow Lab Radiation Measurements Lab Nuclear Materials Nuclear Design II Reactor Laboratory Fusion Technology Technical Elective typically use optional technical electives In the undergraduate curriculum to study nuclear technology. Such an engineer has approximately I~12 credit hours of study in nuclear technology and is weD prepared to work as a general engineer (mechanical or chemicals In project management or operations for the nuclear utility Nosy. However, he or she is poorly prepared to take on He specific tasks noted in the pawing paragraph of a nuclear engineer. The industry experience of using the B.S. engineer with only a nuclear option for nuclear engineering tasks has met with little success. Present Status of Nuclear Engineering Undergraduate enrollment in nuclear engineering peaked in 1977, just prior to the Three Mile Island (TMb nuclear accident, which led to a major reevaluation of the nuclear power industry in this county, as wed as a reexamination of the curricular content of He typical nuclear engineering degree. While the degree of individual injury, that resulted from the TMI accident was minor compared to routinely accepted hazards in modern life, the public perception of nuclear power was very negative. The regulatory and licensing 134

OCR for page 129
The Nuclear Regulatory Commission established a number of safety modifications, or "back-fits," designed to lessen the likelihood of a repetition of the ~ accident. Such modifications made operating plants more complex, increasing He number of requirM nuclear engineers for operation. A specific position, shift technical advisor, was created for the operating staff that essentially required an en=mneenne decree. . . . A. ~. . . . . . ~ . - -$ O O AS snown In Figure 19 ounng tills period or increasing demand in operation and licensing for nuclear engineers, the negative public perception of nuclear power led to a steady decline in the enrollment in undergraduate nuclear en~neenng programs beginning in 1977 (from a high of 2,121 to about 1,300 today) undergraduate enrollment and degree production in nuclear engineering from the early '70s unu1 today. Enrollments began a decline. . Annual degree productivity dropped steadily from a high of 863 in 1977 to about 500 today. Contnbu~ang tO this steady decline in enrollment was Me tendency for engineering colleges with small enrollments in nuclear engineering to drop that program or combine it with larger engineering departments In the late '70s and early '8Os. 3000 2000 / Par En-~ 1000 O ~ 70 ~_ 80 Year 90 Figure I. Nuclear engineering undergraduate enrollment and degrees, 1972-1987. 135

OCR for page 129
The industry and university response to He TM! accident was to reexamine safety issues and the requirements for owning of reactor operation and maintenance personnel. The university response included an increased curricular emphasis on thermal transport in reactors as weD as safety and licensing issues (Argonne Universities Association, 19801. The national industnal response was to create an industry entity, the institute for Nuclear Power Operations HIPPO) which established national standards for training requirements to support reactor operations and accredited the training programs of individual utilities. Similar efforts were undertaken at an international level by the [AEA.3 The Chernobyl nuclear reactor accident in the Soviet Union in the early '80s caused additional negative pressure on nuclear eng~neenng enrollments. Delays due to public intervention in the licensing process led to substantial cost overruns. High capital expenditure rates resulted from the high interest rates of the late 70s and the lack of income during the constriction and licensing phases. Many commercial nuclear power plants that had been planned in the '60s and early '70s were cancelled by the mid 'S0s. Public perception of nuclear power continued to be negative, with uncertainties in the risk due to accidents and the long-term storage of nuclear waste stressed. Nevertheless, the United States presently has more than 100 commercial nuclear power plants in operation, which generate approximately 20 percent of the its electncal energy supply. Contrary to common perception, the demand for nuclear engineers has remained strong during the past two decades. The B.S. nuclear engineer has not experienced the period of slack employment typical of the aerospace and petroleum indusmes in recent years. Indeed, many utilities and vendors have been forced to use engineers with only a nuclear engineering minor or without any specific nuclear training to fulfill their nuclear engineering functions. The job prospects for nuclear engineers continue to be strong (Baste, 1988~. There is growing work for nuclear engineers in the areas of environmental restoration and waste management. There is an expanding international market in nuclear power, and the U.S. nuclear industry is gearing up to provide nuclear services to that market. The U.S. government's defense-related nuclear engineering work has continuer! to grow. The growth in management, technical, and professional positions in nuclear-related Onrushes is expecter! to be at an annual rate of 2.3 percent for the next decade, but He expecter! annual grown In nuclear and reactor eng~neenng employment will be over percent (DuTemple and Dielunan, 19881. 3This resulted in the publication of additional guidelines, such as Manpower Developmentfor Nuclear Power, A Guidebook, Vienna, Austria: IAEA Publishers, 1980. 136

OCR for page 129
Future of Nuclear Engineering The nuclear engineer (NE) of tony has a core Mining in the fundamental engineering sciences. Thus he or she has the flexibility to function in many standard non- nuclear engineering jobs such as project management, engineering design, systems analysis, and operations. Training in the fundamentals of engineering science, along with synthesis and engineering design, produces a professional engined with the lifelong ability to acquire new technologies and change career direction. Because of a strong foundation in the interaction of radiation with matter and In nuclear processes the NE has a role In research and development in areas of emerging nuclear technologies, including the use of controlled nuclear fusion as an energy source and the recently touted cold fusion research. Additionally, the use of nuclear fission reactors as non-electr~cal energy sources in various environments and the use of radianon in material and biological systems are emerging areas for nuclear eng~neenng. Shielding calculations for the use of accelerators in medical treatment environments and radiation health physics are also applications of nuclear - englneenng. The nuclear engineering curriculum could be used as a mode! far the development of an inherently flexible engineering Gaining program (Table 3~. Each engineer should receive two or Me years of Paining in the fundamental sciences and eng~neenng sciences, as well as He social sciences and humanities, to provide appropriate breadth. That would be followed by one year of special~zanon in a particular discipline (i.e., nucleate. The final year would consist of a practicum in engineering practice and design, common to all disciplines, but with specific applications in Me chosen major. The advantage of a curriculum that emphasizes the major area only In one year of study is the subsequent flexibility to change to another engineering discipline with a single year of study spread over a number of years in a part-time format, while one is employed full-time as an engineer. The acceptance of such a general curriculum by a broad spectrum of eng~neenng disciplines is unlikely because of growing demands placed on each curriculum by Me march of technology in He individual discipline. The typical B.S. engineering program in the United States is now a 4-5 year program, due to the demands for breadth and depth in the course work. Curriculum pressures push the engineering student to a decision on engineering major early in tile academic career. However, some programs have continued to maintain a commonality of the eng~neenng cumculum through the sophomore year. The 137

OCR for page 129
Table 3. Proposed General Engineering Curriculum Freshman Year Science, math, humanities and social sciences including physics through modern physics, chemists Hugh quantitative analysis, mathematics through partial differential equations and numerical methods, social sciences and humanities, english composition and public speaking, economics, other electives. Sophomore Year: Eng~neenng sciences, including engineering matenals, eng~neenng economics, heat transfer, fluids, statics, electronics, thermodynamics, computer sciences, laboratory experimentation, advanced sciences. Junior Year: Emphasis on core of discipline; for nuclear engineering this would include radiation interaction with matter, neutron diffusion and kinetics, reactor thermal hydraulics, reactor safety and licensing, radiation health physics and shielding, nuclear instrumentation and reactor laboratories. Senior Year: Practicum in professional engineering practice, engineering design and ~ndusmal practice. acceptance of a common curriculum in the final year is He hurdle that must be overcome lo make the program outlined above feasible. Many nuclear engineering acaderriics agree Hat nuclear engineering as a discipline is, and should remain, independent of the commercial nuclear power industry-just as electrical engineering as a discipline is independent of He electrical power and m~croelec~onics industries and mechanical engineering is independent of He machine design and automotive ~ndustnes. While many NEs find employment with nuclear utilines, others find employment with national research laboratories, with state government, with the aerospace industries, or in university teaching or research. Nuclear engineering is flexible enough dial one can enter it from the graduate degree level or from an undergraduate option level, as well as the now traditional B.S. curriculum. Nuclear eng~neenng continues to grow and mature as a discipline. With the evolution of the nuclear power industry and He continued development of applications of radiation, it will continue to do so well into the twenty-f~rst cent - . The present hiatus In 138

OCR for page 129
construction of commercial nuclear power plants notwithstanding, there continues to be a demand for nuclear engineers In the U.S. marketplace. The goal of nuclear engineering educators must be to continue to produce a product that is based in the fundamentals of nuclear processes and applications, with an underpinning of He core of engineering science fundamentals. References Argonne Universities Association (AUA), Nuclear Eng~neenng Education Committee. 1980. Education and Training NeedEs of the Nuclear Power Aldus try. Argonne, m. AUA. Basta, Nicholas. 1988. lob prospects for computer engineers. Graduanng Engineer 9~4:March):72-73. Dawson, Frank G. 1976. Nuclear Power, Development aM Management of a Technology. Seattle: University of Washington Press. DuTemple, Octave I., and W. M. Diekman. 1988. lob Opportun`nes in the 990s. La Grange Park, m. American Nuclear Society. 139

OCR for page 129