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Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise (2012)

Chapter: 8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise

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Suggested Citation:"8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
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8

Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise

 

This chapter presents the committee’s summary of estimates of current and projected supply and demand for nuclear and radiochemistry expertise based on the information discussed in the previous chapters. The committee was conservative in its estimates, not wanting to overestimate a need that might result in an oversupply of expertise. Thus, these estimates are, for the most part, based on a status quo in demand. The projected numbers account for anticipated growth in nuclear medicine, but not for any sizable increase in demand in other sectors—as might be needed for a significant expansion of nuclear power or response to a large-scale radiologic release event on US soil.

DEMAND

Based on educational degree data collected from industry, national laboratories (Figure 2-5), and academia (Figure 3-4), the committee estimates that there are currently 416 B.S., 256 M.S., and 765 Ph.D. nuclear and radiochemists employed (Table 8-1).

Over the next five years, due to anticipated retirements and growth in medicine, the committee estimates a need for the hiring of an additional 200 B.S.-, 93 M.S.-, and 306 Ph.D.-level nuclear and radiochemists (Table 8-2).

SUPPLY

The committee assessed current nuclear and radiochemistry academic programs (Chapter 3) to estimate the number of degree holders that would be available to meet the projected demand. As discussed in Chapter 3, there will be approximately 500 B.S. chemistry degree holders and 100 M.S. degree holders per year from departments with two or more nuclear and radiochemistry faculty members (Table 3-3). Of those, approximately

Suggested Citation:"8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

TABLE 8-1 Estimated Number of Currently Employed Nuclear and Radiochemists by Sector and Degree

Sector B.S. M.S. Ph.D.
Medicine* 89 43 163
Energy 160 49 46
National laboratories (security and EM) 167 164 494
Academia (chemistry faculty only)** n.a. n.a. 62
Total 416 256 765

EM, environmental management; n.a., not applicable.

*Includes industry, National Institutes of Health, and nuclear medicine faculty members.

Includes nuclear and radiochemistry expertise at nuclear power plants, nuclear vendors and support industry, and federal and state regulatory agencies.

**Does not include all staff involved in maintaining nuclear facilities, such as those enforcing safety.

SOURCE: Based on personal communication from industry, national laboratories, and state agencies, and the current number of academic faculty (Figure 3-4).

TABLE 8-2 Estimated Number of Nuclear and Radiochemists to be Hired in the Next 5 Years, by Sector and Degree, to Meet Status Quo Demands

B.S. M.S. Ph.D.
Medicine* 26 20 46
Energy 104 14 11
National laboratories (security and EM) 70 59 228
Academia (chemistry faculty only)** n.a. n.a. 21
Total 200 93 306

EM, environmental management; n.a., not applicable.

*Includes only industry.

Includes nuclear and radiochemistry expertise at nuclear power plants, nuclear vendors and support industry, and federal and state regulatory agencies.

**Based on number of new faculty since 2009, shown in Figure 3-4.

SOURCE: Based on personal communication from industry, national laboratories, and state agencies, and from recent hires of academic faculty (Figure 3-4).

50 B.S. and 10 M.S. will likely have taken an advanced course in nuclear and radiochemistry. Thus, the projected supply of B.S.-level nuclear and radiochemists over five years is 250 and M.S.-level is 50. Both of these groups would also supply those who enter Ph.D. programs.

Although, as explained in Chapter 1, advanced degrees in nuclear and radiochemistry are no longer tracked by government surveys, the committee was able to identify recent Ph.D.s granted in nuclear and radiochemistry by looking at published theses with nuclear chemistry as a subject keyword: an average of 13 Ph.D. theses per year were published in 2004-2010 (Figure 2-1). If this trend continues and if most of these Ph.D.s remain in the United

Suggested Citation:"8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

TABLE 8-3 Supply and Demand of Nuclear and Radiochemist Degree Holders over the Next 5 Years

B.S. M.S. Ph.D.
Demand 200 93 306
Supply* 250 50 65

*New degree holders

SOURCE: Demand data from Table 8-2; supply data from analysis of academic degrees in Chapter 3.

States (e.g., as U.S. citizens or permanent residents), the projected supply of new Ph.D. nuclear and radiochemists over 5 years is estimated to be 65.

Table 8-3 compares the projected supply and demand for nuclear and radiochemistry degree holders 5 years from now: the projected supply of B.S. chemists seems adequate to meet the projected demand, but the number of Ph.D.s is far short of the projected need of 306 Ph.D.s.

FINDINGS

Estimates of the adequacy of the supply of nuclear and radiochemists to meet future needs are very uncertain, in part because of the difficulty in tracking availability of expertise, as discussed in Chapter 1. For example, there are no specific nuclear and radiochemistry undergraduate degree programs, so the projected supply will be drawn from B.S.-degree chemists who may or may not have specialized expertise in nuclear and radiochemistry. The future pool of Ph.D.s with nuclear and radiochemistry expertise is similarly difficult to estimate because of the lack of data on individuals earning doctorates in these fields and the degree to which other disciplines such as nuclear engineering, inorganic chemistry, and analytical chemistry can serve as “substitute producers” of nuclear and radiochemistry expertise with on-the-job training in the respective application areas.

The committee concludes that the current demand for nuclear and radiochemistry is barely being met by the supply—and on an ad hoc basis at that. Although there is evidence that the number of Ph.D.s in nuclear and radiochemistry is growing, their influx into the pipeline may be insufficient, given the aging of the current workforce with the necessary expertise and the fact that there are limits to the extent to which on-the-job training of those in closely related fields can suffice. For example, many Ph.D.-level nuclear and radiochemists at the national laboratories are inorganic chemists who have been trained on the job. Such training fills gaps in expertise in the short term but does not provide the same quality of preparation and expertise

Suggested Citation:"8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×

as that of a Ph.D. specifically in nuclear and radiochemistry. Considerable efforts are necessary to sustain the quantity and quality of nuclear and radiochemistry degree programs to ensure an adequate supply of expertise to meet the projected demand.

Based on these findings, the committee provides recommendations in Chapter 10 for action in three main areas: institutional (structural support and collaboration), educational (on-the-job training and knowledge transfer and retention), and collection and tracking of workforce data.

Suggested Citation:"8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×
Page 127
Suggested Citation:"8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×
Page 128
Suggested Citation:"8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×
Page 129
Suggested Citation:"8 Summary of Supply and Demand for Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise." National Research Council. 2012. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/13308.
×
Page 130
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The growing use of nuclear medicine, the potential expansion of nuclear power generation, and the urgent needs to protect the nation against external nuclear threats, to maintain our nuclear weapons stockpile, and to manage the nuclear wastes generated in past decades, require a substantial, highly trained, and exceptionally talented workforce. Assuring a Future U.S.-Based Nuclear and Radiochemistry Expertise examines supply and demand for expertise in nuclear chemistry nuclear science, and radiochemistry in the United States and presents possible approaches for ensuring adequate availability of these skills, including necessary science and technology training platforms.

Considering a range of reasonable scenarios looking to the future, none of these areas are likely to experience a decrease in demand for expertise. However, many in the current workforce are approaching retirement age and the number of students opting for careers in nuclear and radiochemistry has decreased dramatically over the past few decades. In order to avoid a gap in these critical areas, increases in student interest in these careers, in the research and educational capacity of universities and colleges, and sector specific on-the-job training will be needed. Concise recommendations are given for actions to avoid a shortage of nuclear chemistry, nuclear scientists, and radiochemists in the future.

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