Graduate school at RPI was pretty intensive academically - even though I had a leg up on the Mechanical Engineer types. I cruised through nuclear physics and neutron physics - but reactor engineering and fluid flow was all new. I especially recall the critical reactor lab where I did my first reactor start-ups. I remember the radiation instrumentation laboratory where we learned how to calibrate various types of gamma and neutron detectors. We had to build counting circuits and discriminator circuits - real practical skills. I also remember the homework. My wife recalls I would come home and work until 1-2AM almost every weeknight. I had learned as an undergraduate that the best way to prep for an exam was to take the text book and work out every problem in the back of each chapter -- an in particular any problem not assigned by a professor as a regular homework problem. (It usually turned out these were good candidates for exam questions.)
As my Masters Degree project was coming to an end, I started looking for employment. After job interviews with Knolls Atomic Power Lab (KAPL), General Electric, and Combustion Engineering (CE) - I decided the job offer at Combustion Engineering looked like the most interesting opportunity. I started work in September 1975 in Windsor, Connecticut. It was an incredible era for new nuclear engineering graduates - possibly equivalent to being an aerospace engineer after President Kennedy challenged NASA to go to the moon. I felt I was part of a young generation that was going to work to reduce America's dependence on imported foreign oil. CE already had operating reactors in Michigan (Palisades), Nebraska (Ft. Calhoun), and Maine (Maine Yankee) - and a dozen orders for new reactors in Arkansas, California, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Arizona, and Washington.
John Bickel (right), Consultant to Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate
at an OECD meeting in Paris