Radiation Protection Technicians
Radiation protection technicians are employed by government agencies, such as the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense, as well as electric power utilities that operate nuclear plants. Other than utilities, technicians are employed by nuclear materials handling and processing facilities, regulatory agencies, nondestructive testing firms, radiopharmaceutical industries, nuclear waste handling facilities, nuclear service firms, and national research laboratories.
The best way to enter this career is to graduate from a radiation control technology program and make use of the school's career services office to find your first job. Another excellent way to enter the career is to join the U.S. Navy and enter its technical training program for various nuclear specialties.
Graduates of radiation control technology programs are usually interviewed and recruited while in school by representatives of companies with nuclear facilities. At that time, they may be hired with arrangements made to begin work soon after graduation. Graduates from strong programs may receive several attractive job offers.
Entry-level jobs for graduate radiation protection technicians include the position of radiation monitor. This position involves working in personnel monitoring, decontamination, and area monitoring and reporting. Another entry-level job is instrument calibration technician. These technicians test instrument reliability, maintain standard sources, and adjust and calibrate instruments. Accelerator safety technicians evaluate nuclear accelerator operating procedures and shielding to ensure personnel safety. Radiobiology technicians test the external and internal effects of radiation in plants and animals, collect data on facilities where potential human exposure to radiation exists, and recommend improvements in techniques or facilities.
Hot-cell operators conduct experimental design and performance tests involving materials of very high radioactivity. Environmental survey technicians gather and prepare radioactive samples from air, water, and food specimens. They may handle nonradioactive test specimens for test comparisons with National Environmental Policy Act standards. Reactor safety technicians study personnel safety through the analysis of reactor procedures and shielding and through analysis of radioactivity tests.
A variety of positions are available for experienced and well-trained radiation protection technicians. Research technicians develop new ideas and techniques in the radiation and nuclear field. Instrument design technicians design and prepare specifications and tests for use in advanced radiation instrumentation. Customer service specialists work in sales, installation, modification, and maintenance of customers' radiation control equipment. Radiochemistry technicians prepare and analyze new and old compounds, utilizing the latest equipment and techniques. Health physics technicians train new radiation monitors, analyze existing procedures, and conduct tests of experimental design and radiation safety. Soil evaluation technicians assess soil density, radioactivity, and moisture content to determine sources of unusually high levels of radioactivity. Radioactive waste analysts develop waste disposal techniques, inventory stored waste, and prepare waste for disposal.
By completing additional training, technicians can become nuclear power reactor operators, nuclear engineers, and nuclear physicists.
Some of the most attractive opportunities for experienced radiation protection technicians include working as radiation experts for a company or laboratory, or acting as consultants. Consultants may work for nuclear engineering or nuclear industry consulting firms or manage their own consulting businesses.
Tips for Entry
Read Nuclear News (https://www.ans.org/pubs/magazines/nn) and Health Physics Journal (https://journals.lww.com/health-physics/pages/default.aspx) to learn more about the field.
Visit http://hps.org/documents/what_is_hp_brochure.pdf to read a brochure on careers in health physics.
Visit https://www.nei.org/advantages/jobs to read Careers in the Nuclear Industry.
Join the American Nuclear Society and the Health Physics Society to access networking and mentoring opportunities, members-only job listings, continuing education classes, and other resources.