Shortage of Nuclear Scientists

DN Staff

April 12, 2010

2 Min Read
Shortage of Nuclear Scientists

Last month President Obama and his administration announced their plans to build two new nuclear reactors, the first reactors to be manufactured in three decades.  The administration said that building these reactors is a way of starting to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels. The only problem is we are running short in scientists and engineers to build these nuclear devices.

Currently, the average age of a nuclear scientist is 47 years old, and there are less and less students entering the nuclear field every year. What is the reason for this drop in interest? Most scientists would agree that the country as a whole lost interest in nuclear technology after the Cold War ended. Due to the retirement rate (8 percent every year) and the lack of students coming in, we will see a steep drop in the amount of nuclear engineers.

Schools and companies agree that other areas of study have been deemed more important and have generated more interest around the nation. Since universities noticed that fewer and fewer students were entering the nuclear field many have dropped the programs altogether, allocating money to the more popular chemistry, mechanical and electrical engineering programs.

There are, however, steps being taken to lift the number of young people studying in the field. The Obama administration is proposing a number of programs that include cash bonuses and tuition reimbursement to entice students.  There is also a program underway from the nuclear security agency that guides its current workers through the steps of recruiting more people into their weapons laboratories. Obama also proposed a 13 percent raise in funding for the National Nuclear Security Administration for the fiscal 2011 year.

Another reason for the dip in numbers that current nuclear scientists are seeing is that the “quality of the science has dropped” said Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group in Albuquerque, NM in a recent interview with The Boston Globe.  According to the article universities are cutting back on their programs and not turning out enough engineers to cover the demand in both the military and civilian sectors.

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