Nuclear engineering applies principles of basic sciences, engineering, and radiation physics to the design and development of nuclear power systems and other radiological applications of interest to national security as well as industrial and medical problems. The major is broad-based and covers fundamental engineering subjects such as solid and fluid mechanics, material science, thermodynamics and heat transfer. It also encompasses the study of nuclear physics, nuclear power plants, numerical simulations, health physics, radiation instrumentation and measurement, nuclear proliferation, nondestructive testing using radiological techniques and the use of radiation for medical diagnostics and testing. After completing the nuclear engineering program at the Naval Academy, one will be well prepared to enter a multitude of technical naval and civilian careers.
After taking fundamental engineering courses and introductory courses in nuclear engineering and nuclear physics, one takes courses in reactor physics, reactor design, nuclear energy conversion, and radiation engineering. The major culminates with a capstone design experience in the first class year that provides midshipmen with a relevant, practical opportunity to incorporate what they have learned into a single project. The program takes seriously the need to develop graduates who have a sound understanding of the design process and its importance in the success of engineering activities. Each capstone team is expected to design, build or model some type of nuclear- related system.
Laboratories and testing facilities dedicated to the nuclear engineering curriculum are some of the best in the country for an undergraduate education. They include a subcritical nuclear reactor, two neutron generators, nuclear detection systems, nuclear simulation software and a wide variety of alpha, beta, gamma, and neutron sources. A large range of internships are available at Naval Laboratories, DoD facilities, and National Laboratories during the intersessional period. Internships introduce midshipmen to such topics as advance radiological sensors, nuclear weapon effects, shipboard radiological controls, and nuclear propulsion.
The nuclear engineering program prepares its graduates to assume responsibilities in the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps which involve the operation and maintenance of highly technical systems. With a bachelor’s degree in nuclear engineering, a Navy or Marine Corps officer is well prepared for a wide variety of career assignments both ashore and afloat. Operational sea billets in surface ships, submarines, surface nuclear ships, and aircraft squadrons provide a wealth of opportunities for a nuclear engineer to develop practical engineering experience. The knowledge and skills of those with a background in nuclear engineering are in demand in naval service and civilian life.
As a student of nuclear engineering, learning will primarily take place via active problem-solving. Therefore, application and practice of analytical skills will be conducted in the classroom and laboratory. Written and oral communication skills are essential elements of engineering practice and are emphasized throughout the program. Computer programming and simulation software skills will be employed to analyze and report data. Successful and satisfied engineering majors are often those that have a desire to understand how things work and how they can make them work better. In addition, a successful nuclear engineer must understand the mathematical and physical relationships that underlie engineering analysis and design.