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nuclear engineering[′nü·klē·ər ‚en·jə′nir·iŋ]
a branch of engineering that deals with nuclear energy; the aggregate of technical means and organizational measures involved in the industrial utilization of the nuclear properties of various materials.
Nuclear engineering is primarily concerned with reactor construction, the production of nuclear fuel, the manufacture of fuel elements for nuclear reactors, the processing of spent nuclear fuel, the separation of isotopes, the production and use of radioisotopes, and the development of ways of protecting personnel from radiation.
Nuclear engineering also attempts to solve many closely related scientific and technical problems, such as the industrial production of structural materials for nuclear reactors, in particular, graphite, heavy water, zirconium, and beryllium; the development of reliable systems for the automatic regulation and control of nuclear reactors and nuclear power plants; the development of effective systems for the removal and utilization of the heat released in the reactor; and the development of a theory and techniques for calculating nuclear-physics and thermal processes.
The branch of engineering that deals with the production and use of nuclear energy and nuclear radiation. The multidisciplinary field of nuclear engineering is studied in many universities. In some it is offered in a special nuclear engineering department; in others it is offered in other departments, such as mechanical or chemical engineering. Primarily, nuclear engineering involves the conception, development, design, construction, operation, and decommissioning of facilities in which nuclear energy or nuclear radiation is generated or used.
Examples of facilities include nuclear power plants; nuclear propulsion reactors used for the propulsion of ships and submarines; space nuclear reactors, used to power satellites, probes, and vehicles; nuclear production reactors, which produce fissile or fusile materials used in nuclear weapons; nuclear research reactors, which generate neutrons and gamma rays for scientific research and medical and industrial applications; gamma cells, which are used for sterilizing medical equipment and food and for manufacturing polymers; particle accelerators, which produce nuclear radiation for use in medical and industrial applications; and nuclear waste repositories. See Nuclear power, Nuclear reactor, Radioactive waste management
Many nuclear engineers are also involved in the research and development of future fusion power plants—plants that will be based on the fusion reaction for generating nuclear energy. Many challenging engineering problems are involved, including the development of technologies for heating the fusion fuel to hundreds of millions of degrees; confining this ultrahot fuel; and compressing fusion fuel to many thousand times their natural solid density. See Nuclear fusion