Nuclear Technicians

What Nuclear Technicians Do

Nuclear technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear energy production.

Work Environment

In nuclear power plants, nuclear technicians typically work in offices and control rooms where they use computers and other equipment to monitor and help operate nuclear reactors. Most nuclear technicians work full-time, variable schedules in the nuclear power industry. Their schedules may include working nights, holidays, and weekends. Nuclear technicians must take safety precautions to avoid exposure to radiation.

How to Become a Nuclear Technician

Nuclear technicians typically need an associate’s degree in nuclear science or a nuclear-related technology. Nuclear technicians also go through extensive on-the-job training.

Pay

The median annual wage for nuclear technicians was $82,080 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Employment of nuclear technicians is projected to decline 19 percent from 2019 to 2029. Although technicians will be needed to help maintain and upgrade existing nuclear power plants, traditional forms of power generation will likely come under increasing pressure from alternative forms of energy.

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

Duties

Nuclear technicians typically do the following:

  • Monitor the performance of equipment used in nuclear experiments and power generation
  • Measure the levels and types of radiation produced by nuclear experiments, power generation, and other activities
  • Collect samples of air, water, and soil, and test for radioactive contamination
  • Instruct personnel on radiation safety procedures and warn them of hazardous conditions
  • Operate and maintain radiation monitoring equipment

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. The following are types of nuclear technicians who work in the power generation industry:

Operating technicians monitor the performance of systems in nuclear power plants. They measure levels of radiation and other contaminants in water systems. The levels they find could indicate a leak or could decrease the efficiency of the turbines in the power plants. They measure efficiency and ensure safety by making calculations based on factors such as temperature, pressure, and radiation intensity. Operating technicians must make adjustments and repairs to maintain or improve the performance of reactors and other equipment.

Radiation protection technicians monitor levels of radiation contamination to protect personnel in nuclear power facilities and the surrounding environment. They use radiation detectors to measure levels in and around facilities, and they use dosimeters to measure the levels present in people and objects. Technicians map radiation levels throughout the plant and the surrounding environment and recommend radioactive decontamination plans and safety procedures for personnel. They also monitor worker activity from a control room and alert personnel who may be entering a dangerous area or working in an unsafe way.

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.

Some 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 (utilized 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.

Nuclear technicians held about 6,700 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of nuclear technicians were as follows:

Electric power generation, transmission and distribution 53%
Manufacturing 13
Employment services 2
Engineering services 1

Most nuclear technicians work in nuclear power plants, where they typically work in offices and control rooms. The technicians use computers and other equipment to monitor and help operate nuclear reactors. Nuclear technicians also need to measure radiation levels onsite, requiring them to visit several areas in and around the plant throughout the workday. This task may sometimes require them to work outside, regardless of weather conditions. Working around nuclear reactors may involve exposure to high temperatures. Nuclear technicians who conduct scientific tests for scientists and engineers typically work in laboratories.

Nuclear technicians must take precautions when working with or around nuclear materials. They often have to wear protective gear and special badges that indicate whether they have been exposed to radiation. Protective gear may include hardhats, hearing and eye protection, plastic suits, and respirators.

Work Schedules

Most nuclear technicians work full time. In power plants, which operate 24 hours a day, technicians may work variable schedules that include nights, holidays, and weekends. Occasionally, plants stop operations for maintenance and upgrades. Workers may need to work overtime during these periods. In laboratories, technicians typically work during normal business hours.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of nuclear technicians.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Chemical Technicians

Chemical technicians use special instruments and techniques to assist chemists and chemical engineers.

Associate’s degree $49,260

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of harmful substances such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive waste.

High school diploma or equivalent $43,900

Mechanical Engineering Technicians

Mechanical engineering technicians help mechanical engineers design, develop, test, and manufacture mechanical devices.

Associate’s degree $56,980

Nuclear Engineers

Nuclear engineers research and develop the processes, instruments, and systems used to derive benefits from nuclear energy and radiation.

Bachelor’s degree $113,460

Nuclear Medicine Technologists

Nuclear medicine technologists prepare radioactive drugs and administer them to patients for imaging or therapeutic purposes.

Associate’s degree $77,950

Physicists and astronomers

Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact.

Doctoral or professional degree $122,220

Power Plant Operators, Distributors, and Dispatchers

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.

High school diploma or equivalent $85,950

Occupational Health and Safety Specialists and Technicians

Occupational health and safety specialists and technicians collect data on and analyze many types of work environments and work procedures.

See How to Become One $70,480

For more information about nuclear technicians, visit

Center for Energy Workforce Development

Get Into Energy

Nuclear Energy Institute

For information about certification, visit

American Society for Nondestructive Testing

National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists

O*NET

Nuclear Equipment Operation Technicians

Nuclear Monitoring Technicians

Nuclear Technicians


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Nuclear Technicians,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/nuclear-technicians.htm (visited ).