A nuclear technician may work in a research and development facility that studies the viability of producing power from a fusion reaction.
A nuclear technician may be involved in administering radioactive dyes and other contrast agents for some medical imaging scans. There are several types of nuclear technician jobs, and each has its own set of responsibilities. Some major types of nuclear technician jobs include nuclear reactor operators, accelerator operators, radiation monitors or health physics technicians, radiographers and decontamination workers. A nuclear reactor operator is involved in all aspects of reactor operations and maintenance, including loading and unloading reactor fuels and monitoring processes. Particle accelerators, a key component in nuclear research, are set up and operated by accelerator operators.
At facilities that produce nuclear energy or are involved in activities that use nuclear energy, the radiation monitors, also known as health physics technicians, keep an eye on radiation levels throughout the plant.
To assure equipment and machinery is safe, radiographers use radiation detection tools to x-ray metal and welded equipment to detect cracks or flaws that may endanger workers.
In the event of radioactive contamination, decontamination workers assess the toxic levels and take steps to reduce them to an acceptable status.
Yuriy Strilchuk, head of training for the National Nuclear Centre of Kazakhstan, is clutching a beeping Geiger counter. Looking out from the epicenter of these blasts, you can still see remnants of structures the Soviets built to test the power of these explosions.
From 1949 to 1989, the Soviet Union conducted 456 nuclear tests here, 116 of them above-ground.
He bends to pick three obsidian-like pebbles from the ground, soil chunks that lifted into the air in a mushroom cloud and metamorphosed into glass by the ferocious power of splitting atoms. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the newly independent Kazakhstan inherited the fourth-largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Anastacia Kyseleva is an 86-year-old resident of the Institution for the Elderly and Disabled in the nearby town of Semey. Twenty-three years after the Semipalatinsk test site was closed, there is no fence surrounding it, nor are their signs marking the ground as contaminated. Kadyrbek Nurtazinov, 58, sits in a retirement home as he lost both of his legs because of radioactive irradiation, in Semipalatinsk, Kazakhstan, on August 21, 2011. Back on the bus, Yuriy Strilchuk wipes the palm that held the contaminated soil on a spare face mask and smiles.


Some duties of a nuclear technician overlap, but almost all positions involve working with nuclear scientists and engineers. In all these positions, the work requires knowledge of testing techniques and expertise in operating radiation measuring and monitoring equipment. These nuclear technician duties are performed either on site or from a distant location utilizing an instrument panel operated by remote control.
These technicians analyze the effects of electrically charged atom particles on the nuclei of other atoms. They ensure the levels are kept in check and do not put workers in danger of contamination.
In a related job, hot cell technicians use remotely controlled testing tools to monitor radiation levels in hot cells, rooms protected by concrete and lead to prevent leakage. He won’t let a group of American journalists off the bus without two shower caps over our shoes and masks on our faces. As we file back into the bus, a man in camouflage pants removes our booties with gloved hands.
She was newly married and living in a village near the test site when the explosions began.
The residents around the testing site have experienced birth defects, mental disabilities, and infertility. Sixty-four years after this grassland became the epicenter of the Soviet nuclear program, he enjoys coming to this place. Various job functions include radiation monitoring, decontamination work, monitoring reactors and nuclear waste processing.
A clear understanding of nuclear energy and radiation safety procedures and the ability to keep concise and timely records are also required. The particle accelerator basically speeds up tiny particles to almost light speed, then collides them to reveal their components. An important part of their job is to keep meticulous records and guarantee the radiation levels never exceed safety levels.
Similarly, radioisotopes, which are radioactive forms of common elements, are tested by radioisotope production operators and made safe for shipment. The land here is treeless and quiet, tawny grass from horizon to horizon, dotted with purple thistles and yellow wildflowers. Strilchuk, a sturdy man with a long goatee and ponytail, first came to this place in 1990 as a Soviet soldier.


To the left are fortified bunkers and barracks that had been filled with dogs, pigs, and goats to approximate the effects a blast would have on soldiers.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in power from the beginning, decided to dismantle the warheads to make nonproliferation a defining characteristic of his new country’s identity. Marat Sandybayev, director of the Semey Oncology Center, says the cancer rate in eastern Kazakhstan is two to three times the national average, and the tumors are aggressive.
Local scavengers have stripped the site of its scrap metal, even using backhoes to dig up buried copper cables.
A covert collaboration between the United States, Kazakhstan, and Russia called Operation Groundhog just finished filling these tunnels with concrete last year. Scientists on an experimental farm on the site are testing the transference of radioactivity from grass to sheep.
A wealthy, resource-rich country, Kazakhstan is broadening its profile as a leader of the nonproliferation movement by hosting negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program. The work environments for nuclear technicians vary greatly and include laboratories, doctors’ offices, power plants and visiting various locations for testing and environmental assessments.
Many positions require wearing protective clothing and identification that identifies the presence of radioactive contamination.
In a line in both directions, 10 four-story concrete buildings rise from the Earth like the moai of Easter Island. It wasn’t until a test in 1956 that soldiers told the villagers to leave their houses and stand beside the river. A 2001 report indicates that within a 60-kilometer zone around the test site, the suicide rate is more than four times the national average. They’ve volunteered to establish an international nuclear fuel bank, a measure of nuclear security that the International Atomic Energy Agency is seriously considering. He steps off the bus with plastic on his loafers but no mask on his face, and takes his position before the dimple in the earth. The Oncology Center now treats the children and grandchildren of the original testing victims. The government even talks of building a nuclear energy reactor of its own, a peaceful application of the fierce atomic power that the Soviet Union once wrought upon the Kazakh steppe.



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