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 15
2 THE EVOLUTION OF NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY AND THE NUCLEAR ENGINEERING PROFESSION Nuclear technology has undergone extensive development since the end of World War II. The nuclear engineering profession, originally concerned mainly with the design of nuclear power plants, has been applied increasingly to solve other problems, as in radioactive waste management, health and medical applications, space applications, and accelerator physics and engineering. In response to the field's broadening scope, nuclear engineering education has also evolved, if not in the same direction, in both undergraduate and graduate programs. A BRIEF HISTORY OF NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY Following the development of nuclear weapons during World War II, the U.S. government devoted substantial resources to developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In 1946 President Truman signed into law the Atomic Energy Act, which gave rise to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy. Although the bill stressed civilian applications of nuclear power, the AEC was at first preoccupied with building a stockpile of nuclear weapons and with other defense applications. In 1954, the first nuclear-powered submarine, the U.S.S. Nautilus, was launched. Under President Eisenhower, the Atoms for Peace initiative and the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 set the stage for the development of civilian nuclear power in the private sector. The AEC announced its Power Reactor Demonstration Program in 1955, providing R&D funding with utility companies building and operating prototype nuclear power plants. Through this program the Westinghouse Electric Corporation built the first nuclear power plant
OCR for page 16
16 connected to a commercial grid in Shippingport, Pennsylvania. This 60- megawatt plant began operations in 1957 (Adato et al., 1987). By the late 1950s, and through the 1960s, there was a strong national commitment to civilian nuclear power. In the late 1960s there was rapid commercialization and expansion of nuclear power, and through much of the 1970s many new plants were planned in anticipation of the expected growth of electricity demand. U.S. development and commercialization of nuclear power for electricity slowed considerably in the late 1970s, leading eventually to the cessation of new plant orders and the cancellation of a substantial number of previously ordered plants; in the 1980s many other plant orders were also cancelled (U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 1980; Campbell, 1988~. A number of events and trends have led to the situation today, when it is highly unlikely that a utility would order a nuclear power plant under present conditions. Concerns about safety and the potential release of radioactivity have led to increasing regulation of nuclear power plants. These concerns were increased by the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident in 1979. Energy price increases in the 1970s stimulated intense efforts in energy conservation, which unexpectedly lowered electricity demand.- In 1986 a severe accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power reactor in the Soviet Union released significant amounts of radioactivity into the environment. Although this reactor used a different technology than U.S. civilian reactors, the event further increased public concern about nuclear power. Despite these problems, the percentage of U.S. electricity supplied by nuclear power is approaching 20 percent (many plants ordered in the 1970s are just now coming into service), and a number of trends could lead to new nuclear power plant orders with a significant impact on the need for nuclear engineers. These trends are discussed below (see Chapter 3~. THE EVOLUTION OF THE NUCLEAR ENGINEERING PROFESSION The nuclear engineering profession and associated education have evolved in response to the development of nuclear energy. Nuclear engineering education began soon after World War II. The Manhattan Project was dominated initially by physicists, to design the active core, and later by chemists and chemical engineers, to develop processes for production of weapons materials. The college faculties who signed the first nuclear engineering curricula soon after World War II came from this orientation. These early programs were heavily weighted toward physics, especially nuclear physics, and toward materials of special interest to nuclear weapons. Later, with the introduction of military and commercial nuclear reactors, nuclear engineering graduates were employed in the design and engineering of reactors and in reactor R&D in national laboratories. The curricula evolved to cover more reactor engineering areas, such as heat transfer, reactor control, structural
OCR for page 17
17 materials, radiation effects, and radiation shielding. Of continuing interest were power generation and extraction of energy from the reactor core. With no new nuclear power plants ordered since 1978, the employment of nuclear engineers (especially those with graduate degrees) has recently developed in many directions other than nuclear reactor design. Additionally, as the nuclear power reactor industry has matured, it has come to need a larger set of nuclear engineering skills. Thus, a number of influences are broadening nuclear engineering education. More specifically, some of these trends are the following: o Utilities have increasingly needed nuclear engineers with bachelor's, rather than graduate, degrees, for the operations, training, and maintenance related to the more than 100 U.S. licensed nuclear reactor plants. There have also been increasing requirements in systems engineering, biological effects, and professional communication. These needs will likely continue to increase. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations and others have all recognized the value of increased education and training for control room supervisors. Other utility engineers are also expected to be trained in reactor physics and shielding, the mainstays of nuclear engineering education, in addition to their principal field of engineering. o Even in the more classical reactor engineering areas, there is now strong emphasis on the formal requirements of licensing and reactor safety technologies from the initial stages of reactor design, as well as reactor core design and energy extraction. As plants age and as they are retired, properly trained nuclear engineers to ensure continued safe operation of older plants and of safe shutdown and disassembly of retired plants will be required. o With the lack of orders for commercial power reactors, research programs in traditional reactor physics and engineering areas have decreased dramatically. Research funding for universities in these fields has decreased as DOE's Office of Nuclear Energy has focused its funding on the national laboratories and industry. Funded research in reactor physics, thermal hydraulics, nuclear materials, and areas related to energy production and energy extraction from the reactor core has sharply declined at universities. Research related to commercial power reactors represents only about 15 percent of total research (see Chapter 4~. O Recent concern over environmental issues for nuclear weapons production facilities indicates a need for engineers with training to contribute to the cleanup and eventual disposal of radioactive and mixed- waste contamination at these facilities. Nuclear engineers educated in nuclear systems, radioactive processes, and the effects of radiation on materials and biological systems are needed for these emerging programs. Programs for both high- and low-level radioactive waste disposal will increasingly require nuclear engineers. The funding available for work
OCR for page 18
18 associated with nuclear processes may be dominated by this field over the next few decades. o Although with appropriate training, scientists and engineers in other disciplines can substitute for nuclear engineers, to the extent they are available, this is not the most efficient way to ensure a pool of trained personnel with the requisite skills. Moreover, substantial personnel shortages in all types of science and engineering are predicted by the year 2010, so that the feasibility of retraining engineers in nuclear technology will diminish (Atkinson, 1990~. O With growing public concern over radiation, there is an increasing need for engineers knowledgeable in health physics and in the biological effects of ionizing radiation. Traditionally, these have been adjunct areas in nuclear engineering programs and are often included in nuclear engineering programs. o Medical applications of nuclear processes have expanded greatly in the last decade, generating a market for graduates who can work both in the design of medical equipment using nuclear effects and in the diagnostic and therapeutic uses of this equipment. o Funding for nuclear fusion R&D has declined markedly in the past few years but the field still has considerable financial support. Although the ratio of students with an interest in fusion to those with an interest in fission in nuclear engineering programs is small, it is the committee's impression that it has increased since the 1970s. o Many aspects of the U.S. Department of Defense's Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's space applications need the talents of persons with nuclear engineering education. These are both reactor- and nonreactor-oriented needs. Significant funding for research projects has been available in recent years. In the absence of R&D funding in the nuclear reactor field, nuclear engineering faculty have switched their research (and that of their graduate students) to these fields. O Research in general and nonreactor applications of nuclear processes has experienced new vigor. Applications include gamma-ray lasers used in basic research and instrumentation for nuclear weapons treaty verification. Many such emerging research opportunities use nuclear engineering faculty and graduate students. THE ROLE OF TECHNICAL SOCIETIES The American Nuclear Society (ANS) has a major role in the institutional development of nuclear engineering. Specific ANS activities include the following: o Participation in the engineering accreditation activities of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), including advocacy of nuclear engineering as a discipline
OCR for page 19
19 o Development of ANS General and Technical Division scholarships in . . nuclear engineering o Support of minority and women student recruitment and scholarships through the ANS Nuclear Engineering Education for the Disadvantaged (NEED) program o Coordination of its activities to support the profession with those of local sections and student organizations. Others, such as the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers also support the nuclear industry, especially in the area of codes and standards (as does ANS). Both have nuclear application divisions with education-related activities. SUGARY Nuclear engineering has changed considerably since the 1950s and 1960s, when curricula were first established. Today, nuclear engineers with bachelor's degrees often require the kind of systems knowledge to manage the operations, maintenance, and licensing for the safe and economic operation of commercial nuclear plants. The research directions of nuclear engineering faculties have broadened, moving away from traditional areas of importance to nuclear power. They have also shaped educational curricula.
OCR for page 20
Representative terms from entire chapter: