Nuclear Scientist

The field in which nuclear scientists work covers a broad range of activities, from designing and monitoring nuclear power plants to developing medicines and equipment. The work is seldom routine and calls for a high degree of original thought. It is also highly complex, entailing the use of very sophisticated electronic equipment and computer-controlled systems.

The work of nuclear scientists includes basic and applied research in nuclear physics and chemistry, radiation physics and biophysics, medical physics, health physics and nuclear energy.

They work with the production of radioactive isotopes (radioisotopes) by means of nuclear reactors or large accelerators. It is the responsibility of nuclear scientists to determine the most suitable nuclear reaction with the minimum amount of unwanted radioactivity.

Radioisotopes can be used in:

  • diagnostic nuclear medicine

  • treatment of cancer

  • sterilisation of medical equipment

  • tracing the movement of air, tides, sea currents and sand, which can be used in industry to control aspects such as the release of industrial gases into the atmosphere

  • the extension of the shelf-life of fresh products

Nuclear scientists are also involved in the purification of irradiated material; development of techniques to analyse samples that are of industrial, mining, geological or archaeological interest; and the observation, measurement and control of radioactivity and radiation.


  • universities

  • large hospitals

  • Directorate for Radiation Safety of the Department of Health


  • Eskom

  • The National Accelerator Centre

  • SABS

Positions in this field are not plentiful and competition is fierce. Those that are better qualified stand a better chance.

Getting Started

  • read up on new discoveries and the latest technology associated with nuclear power

  • speak to a nuclear scientist about this career


Bindura University of Science Education, Botswana International University of Science and Technology, Catholic University of Eastern African, Chuka University, Egerton University, Embu University College, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Tanzania), Kenyatta University, Kirinyaga University College, Kisii University, Kyambogo University, Laikipia University, Machakos University College, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Meru University of Science and Technology, Mount Kenya University, Multimedia University of Kenya, Murang'a University of Technology, National University of Lesotho, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, North-West University, Open University of Tanzania, Rongo University College, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Solusi University, South Eastern Kenya University, University of Botswana, University of Eldoret, University of Johannesburg, University of Mauritius, University of Nairobi, University of Namibia, University of Pretoria, University of Rwanda, University of Stellenbosch, University of Swaziland, University of the Witwatersrand

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