Nuclear power technology is a small, specialized field, with just over 100 licensed nuclear reactors operating in the U.S. according to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Each reactor requires several technicians; however, with the limited demand for graduates of a nuclear technology program, few schools offer the major through distance education. The rare online program in nuclear power technology leads to an associate degree and includes both general education coursework and courses in chemistry and physics of nuclear reactors.
The program is entirely online, and students need to be able to run simulations. Employment in the field after earning an associate degree in nuclear power technology may require licensure.
Associate Degree in Nuclear Power Technology
An online associate degree in nuclear power technology is designed to prepare individuals for entry-level employment in nuclear power facilities. Students become familiar with nuclear power history and extensively study reactor safety design and safety procedures while operating and working in nuclear power plants. Focus is placed on technical science principles, such as classic physics, nuclear plant chemistry, nuclear physics, and electrical science.
This type of online associate program requires approximately 64 credit hours and two years to complete. The curriculum is typically composed of 49 credits of technical requirements accompanied by 15 credit hours of general education coursework. Online courses typically utilize interactive lectures that allow students to view content at their own pace at a time that is convenient to them. Other course delivery methods include online self-check quizzes, animations, and simulations.
Online coursework covers a variety of important topics within the nuclear power industry. Course topics commonly include radiological protection, nuclear physics, electrical science, nuclear mathematics, and heat transfer.
Introduction to Nuclear Energy
Lessons cover the history of nuclear power, nuclear waste issues, principles of reactor design, and operation procedures for a commercial nuclear electrical generating facility. Students also examine the important events that have occurred at commercial nuclear plants and focus on what lies ahead for the electrical generating industry.
Nuclear Plant Chemistry
Students learn the chemistry fundamentals needed to maintain water purity in both primary and secondary systems. Students study chemistry concepts involved in boiling and pressurized water reactors, safety requirements, and water treatment.
This online course introduces students to the basics of how reactors are built and operated. Students learn the theory and principles of control room operation and how different activities affect the reactor. Topics covered include types of neutrons, neutron lifecycle, decay heat removal, and reactor shutdown operation.
Graduates of an online program in nuclear power technology are qualified for employment as maintenance, chemistry, health physics, and non-licensed operator technicians in nuclear generation systems.
Maintenance technicians repair and provide preventative maintenance to ensure the reliability of nuclear power plants and are reported to earn a median yearly salary of $80,260 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nuclear power reactor operators earned a median salary of $88,560 in 2015. No matter the position, all technicians within the nuclear power industry receive on-going training while on the job to ensure mastery of the most up-to-date operation and safety procedures within the nuclear power facility.
Online degrees in nuclear power technology are rare, but an associate's program that is entirely online is available. This program can often lead to licensure and work maintaining and operating nuclear reactors.