Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Classes today

Today I turned in my debate speech outline on whether the US federal government should penalize companies who outsource jobs. I'd like to thank Shockgrubz and Jeffrey Ross for offering their testimony to the matter. The feedback is much appreciated!

Today was also part 2 of a lab I had in my Nuclear Engineering orientation class. Monday we measured doses of radiation with Geiger counters and experimented with shielding materials (wood, aluminum, lead, etc) to measure how well each material could protect from radiation.
This time on the other hand we had a lab on thermal hydraulics, experimenting with a natural circulation loop, which is basically a process that circulates hot and cold water in nuclear reactors using natural laws like gravity.

Meanwhile our professor told us about how some nuclear power plant operators are actually people with just a high school diploma who spent 2-4 years of intensive training to learn how to safely operate a nuclear reactor, but they make around $100,000 - $150,000 a year. He said that what most people say about the work is it's a mix of 99% boredom and 1% terror. (Boredom for the endless hours when the reactor is running properly, terror for the "holy shit oh god what's happening" moments).

Although the pay scale certainly looks sexy I think the boredom would quickly turn my mind to mush. I think I would probably prefer making less for a job that I enjoyed more. What I am really interested in is the development of more efficient nuclear fission power plants, or my dream of developing nuclear fusion power plants.
Nuclear fusion is what happens in the sun!

Another interesting fact we learned was that since nuclear power plants have built in automatic safety features, the whole meltdown at Three Mile Island could have been avoided if the plant operators had simply done NOTHING. That's right, it was their intervening that made the situation turn into a disaster. Poor guys, they probably felt like idiots.

But then I thought, isn't Homer Simpson a nuclear power plant operator? Why are the Simpsons usually portrayed as a poor family if reactor operators are supposed to make a lot of money? After running a quick google search I have determined that Homer is in fact a "safety techinician", not an "reactor operator".

14 comments:

  1. I'm a little jealous of you for being able to play around with a geiger counter. That sounds like fun to me.

    Also, I recall Home explaining to Doctor Hibbert that he is a nuclear safety technician.

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    1. saftey technician! There ya go! I'll change the article, thank you. :)

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  2. It is always better to do something that you love and be happy than just something for the money! Good luck!

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  3. haha your image describes it perfectly

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  4. But I'm guessing you should have a high physics and chemistry grade from your high school days just to be a reactor operator.

    Has your professor ever talked about cold fusion yet? With all the water in the world we could power all electronic devices for centuries to come.

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    1. No, our professor hasn't talked about nuclear fusion yet. I'm really interested in the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) being built in France. It's going to be one of the first large scale attempts to efficiently produce power from fusion, that is get at least 4x times as much energy out as is put in. The reactor itself uses extremely high temperatures and plasmas and magnetic fields in order to get atoms to fuse.

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    2. And you're right, the theories of nuclear fusion say that we could have virtually limitless energy based on how much water there is on the planet.

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  5. Hah if Homer keep a nuclear power plant from exploding then I'm sure everyone else will have no problem doing it.

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  6. agreed, outsourcing is like theft.

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  7. Nuclear fission.
    I want to believe...
    Make this dream come true!

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  8. I didn't know that many nuclear power plant operators are high school graduates with some specialized training. I guess the Simpsons portrayal of Homer graduating from High School then moving into his job at the nuclear power plant, after a short stint working in a bowling alley, isn't as far fetched as I thought.

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  9. Nuclear engineering!?!??! AWESOME!

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