Nuclear Science

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Resources include the Nuclear Science merit badge worksheet in PDF format Adobe Acrobat PDF and Word format Microsoft Word DOC document, links, and cross-references to related badges and awards.
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Nuclear Science merit badge
Status: Elective
Created: 2005
Replaced: Atomic Energy
BSA Advancement ID: 024
Requirements revision: 2017
Latest pamphlet revision: 2010


Nuclear science gives us a simple explanation of the natural world. The ultimate goal of nuclear science is to find out if there is one fundamental rule that explains how matter and forces interact. Earning the Nuclear Science merit badge is a chance for Scouts to learn about this exciting field at the cutting edge of science today.

Nuclear Science merit badge requirements

  1. Do the following:
    a. Tell what radiation is.
    b. Describe the hazards of radiation to humans, the environment, and wildlife. Explain the difference between radiation exposure and contamination. In your explanation, discuss the nature and magnitude of radiation risks to humans from nuclear power, medical radiation (e.g., chest or dental X-ray), and background radiation including radon. Explain the ALARA principle and measures required by law to minimize these risks.
    c. Describe the radiation hazard symbol and explain where it should be used. Tell why and how people must use radiation or radioactive materials carefully.
    d. Compare the amount of radiation exposure of a nuclear power plant worker to that of someone receiving a chest and dental X-ray.
  2. Do the following:
    a. Tell the meaning of the following: atom, nucleus, proton, neutron, electron, quark, isotope; alpha particle, beta particle, gamma ray, X-ray; ionization, radioactivity, radioisotope, and stability.
    b. Choose an element from the periodic table. Construct 3-D models for the atoms of three isotopes of this element, showing neutrons, protons, and electrons. Use the three models to explain the difference between atomic number and mass number and the difference between the atom and nuclear and quark structures of isotopes.
  3. Do ONE of the following; then discuss modern particle physics with your counselor:
    a. Visit an accelerator (research lab) or university where people study the properties of the nucleus or nucleons.
    b. Name three particle accelerators and describe several experiments that each accelerator performs.
  4. Do TWO of the following; then discuss with your counselor the different kinds of radiation and how they can be used:
    a. Build an electroscope. Show how it works. Place a radiation source inside and explain the effect it causes.
    b. Make a cloud chamber. Show how it can be used to see the tracks caused by radiation. Explain what is happening.
    c. Obtain a sample of irradiated and non-irradiated foods. Prepare the two foods and compare their taste and texture. Store the leftovers in separate containers and under the same conditions. For a period of 14 days, observe their rate of decomposition or spoilage, and describe the differences you see on days 5, 10, and 14.
    d. Visit a place where radioisotopes are being used. Using a drawing, explain how and why they are used.
  5. Do ONE of the following; then discuss with your counselor the principles of radiation safety:
    a. Using a radiation survey meter and a radioactive source, show how the counts per minute change as the source gets closer to or farther from the radiation detector. Place three different materials between the source and the detector, then explain any differences in the measurements per minute. Explain how time, distance, and shielding can reduce an individual’s radiation dose.
    b. Describe how radon is detected in homes. Discuss the steps taken for the long-term and short-term test methods, tell how to interpret the results, and explain when each type of test should be used. Explain the health concern related to radon gas and tell what steps can be taken to reduce radon in buildings.
    c. Visit a place where X-rays are used. Draw a floor plan of this room. Show where the unit, the unit operator, and the patient would be when the X-ray unit is operated. Explain the precautions taken and the importance of those precautions.
  6. Do ONE of the following; then discuss with your counselor how nuclear energy is used to produce electricity:
    a. Make a drawing showing how nuclear fission happens, labeling all details. Draw another picture showing how a chain reaction could be started and how it could be stopped. Explain what is meant by a “critical mass.”
    b. Build a model of a nuclear reactor. Show the fuel, control rods, shielding, moderator, and cooling material. Explain how a reactor could be used to change nuclear energy into electrical energy or make things radioactive.
    c. Find out how many nuclear power plants exist in the United States. Locate the one nearest your home. Find out what percentage of electricity in the United States is generated by nuclear power plants, by coal, and by gas.
  7. Give an example of each of the following in relation to how energy from an atom can be used: nuclear medicine, environmental applications, industrial applications, space exploration, and radiation therapy. For each example, explain the application and its significance to nuclear science.
  8. Find out about three career opportunities in nuclear science that interest you. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession and discuss this with your counselor. Tell why this profession interests you.

The official source for the information shown in this article or section is:
Scouts BSA Requirements, 2019 Edition (BSA Supply SKU #648914)

View the change list (history) of these requirements. The text of these requirements may be locked. In that case, they can only be edited
by an administrator.
Please note any errors found in the above requirements on this article's Talk Page.


Worksheet A FREE workbook for Nuclear Science is available here! (PDF or Word) with the maps, charts, links, diagrams, and checklists you need! Or click here to print just the Nuclear Science requirements. has PDF and Word versions of workbooks for Scouts BSA ranks and merit badges, Cub Scouting ranks and adventures, and STEM Nova awards.

The Nuclear Science merit badge is an option for the Start Your Engines!, Harris Bronze Supernova, and Edison Silver Supernova STEM Nova Awards.
  1. This merit badge replaced Atomic Energy, which was taken out in late 2006-early 2007.
  2. Nuclear Science is a rare merit badge!
  3. Nuclear Science is one of the elective merit badges for the William T. Hornaday awards for Scouts BSA.

Requirement resources

1a. Radiation Hazards - Radiation Hazards of X-rays - Radiation Hazards in the U.S. - Radiation Information - Radiation made Easy - Wikipedia Radiation poisoning -

Deterministic and Stochastic ModelsDeterministic vs Stochastic
Estimate your Annual Dose of Radiation - Radiation Exposure EPA Radiation Laws

1b. Radiation Symbol - Radiation Hazard Symbol - A history of the radiation symbol - Radiation and Risk
2. Dictionary of Radiological Terms - US NRC Glossary of Nuclear Terms - Nuclear Science Terms - Term Glossary - First Course in Nuclear Science - Glossary of Terms
3. The Atomic Heritage Foundation - Biographies of the Nuclear Age - Famous Figures in Nuclear Science

Henri Becquerel - Niels Bohr - Marie Curie - Albert Einstein - Enrico Fermi - Otto Hahn - Ernest Lawrence - Lise Meitner - Wilhelm Roentgen - Sir Ernest Rutherford

4. Periodic Table - Interactive Periodic Table ANimated Electrons, Atom Diagrams, etc. - Periodic Table of the Elements

Atomic Model Suggestions - Isotopes of Hydrogen

4a: Nuclear Fission - Nuclear Fission - Chain Reaction
4b. Critical Mass
5a. Build an Electroscope - A Homemade Fallout Meter (Kearny Fallout Meter) Video = Kearny Fallout Meter - Test with Dental X-ray
5b. Description of how a Nuclear Reactor works - Inside a Nuclear Reactor
5c. How time, distance and shielding reduce radiation dose - How to reduce exposure to radiation - Wikipedia Biological Shielding - Time, Distance, and Shielding - How to detect radiation
5d. Food Irradiation - Food Irradiation from A to Z - Irradiation information and how to recognize irradiated foods - USFDA Food Irradiation
5e. Natural Radioactivity - Citizen's Guide to Radon - How radon tests work - Radon Outreach Program - Video = Testing Your Granite Counter-top for Radon
5f. The graph paper you need is in the workbook (PDF Adobe Acrobat PDF or Word Microsoft Word DOC document).

X-ray info and safety precautions - X-ray safety - Dangers of X Rays

5g. How to build a cloud chamber - How a cloud chamber works - Video = How to Build a Cloud Chamber
5h. Radioisotopes in medicine - Uses of Isotopes
5i. Seed Irradiation
5j. See 6c below for accelerator laboratories. - Universities with Research Reactors
6a. Nuclear Medicine - Environmental - Nuclear Propulsion - Radiation Therapy
6b. US Nuclear power - Locate Nuclear Power Plants in the US - Energy in the United States - Nuclear Power Plants and Utilities - Nuclear Power in the World
6c. Brookhaven Lab - Fermi Lab - Stanford Linear Accelerator - Jefferson Lab - Argonne Lab - Advanced Light Source at Berkeley
7. Nuclear Engineering Career Page - Nuclear Education and Research - Careers in Radiology - Radiation Therapy Careers - Video = Nuclear Engineering A Fulfilling Career

Related awards

Science-related awards
Profession-related awards

See also

Scouts BSA portal
Venturing portal
Sea Scout portal
General Merit Badge information

External links

Personal tools