Nuclear, Plasma, & Radiological Engineering

Major Description

Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering is concerned with the development and use of nuclear energy and radiation sources for a wide variety of applications in energy production, in materials processing and science, and for biomedical and industrial uses. Areas of interest include the continued safe and reliable application of fission reactors as central electric power-plant thermal sources, plasma processing applications and the long-term development of fusion reactors for electric power generation, and the use of radiation sources in such areas as materials, biological systems, medical treatment, radiation instrumentation, environmental systems, and activation analysis.


 The NPRE Department at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, has BS, MS, and PhD in NPRE degree programs with three academic paths: 


Knowledge of plasmas prepares one for work on the ongoing quest to harness the power of nuclear fusion. Fusion is the combination of two light nuclei to form a heavier element—the opposite of nuclear fission, which is currently utilized in nuclear power plants.

Nuclear energy provides an environmentally friendly source for electric power generation throughout the world. It has continued to produce twenty percent of the US electricity for the past twenty years, with an enviable safety record, at very competitive costs. New and improved designs are evolving that will enable expanded use in both developed and developing countries.

With the current energy crisis, there is a tremendous need for new power plants. Nuclear power has the advantage of possessing an outstanding safety record, low pollution emissions, and low energy costs. If new nuclear power plants are built, the need for health physicists and radiological engineers will be tremendous.

Courses That Introduce the Major:
  • CHEM 102/103—General Chemistry I / General Chemistry Lab I
  • MATH 221—Calculus I
  • MATH 231—Calculus II
  • PHYS 211—University Physics: Mechanics
  • PHYS 212—University Physics: Electricity & Magnetism

Students should consult with an academic advisor regarding course selection prior to the advanced registration period.

Possible Career Opportunities:

Nuclear engineering (and nuclear power by extension) offers tremendous potential for students interested in numerous career opportunities, ground breaking scientific research, and creating energy solutions that helps the world run. 

  • Design power plants and supervise operations
  • Fusion energy
  • Improve plant safety and efficiency
  • Material processing
  • Microelectronics
  • Research
  • Communicate effectively
  • Design and conduct experiments
  • Knowledge of contemporary issues
  • Problem solving
  • Teamwork
  • Understanding of technology
  • Associate Engineer
  • Development Engineer
  • Engineer
  • Nuclear Engineer
  • Project Engineer
  • Test Engineer

Some careers may require education beyond an undergraduate degree.

Enhancing Your Academic Experience:
  • Participating in undergraduate research
  • Applying for a study abroad experience
  • Utilizing resources of The Career Center and Engineering Career Services
  • Joining a Registered Student Organization (RSO) related to this major, such as:
    • Alpha Omega Epsilon Engineering Sorority: Promotes friendship, leadership, and professionalism to further the advancement of female engineers, while strengthening the bonds of sisterhood in the process.
    • American Nuclear Society, University of Illinois Student Section: Opportunity for students to develop professionally though affiliation with an international organization of nuclear scientists and engineers as well as to encourage social interactions between members and other University organizations.
Further Information:

There are several professional organizations dedicated to Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering.  Their websites might be able to provide a glimpse in the world of Nuclear, Plasma, and Radiological Engineering.  These organizations include American Nuclear Society and National Society of Professional Engineers.