n. A worker in a nuclear power plant who repairs equipment in hazardous areas and so is often exposed to extremely high levels of radiation.
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In nuclear plants, robots toil for hours at a time in highly radioactive areas in place of hundreds of employees, called jumpers or glowboys, who worked in short relays so as to minimize their exposure.
—Gene Bylinsky, “Invasion of the service robots,” Fortune, September 14, 1987
Across the United States, thousands of employes function daily in and around nuclear reactors. An estimated 5,000 unskilled workers are hired by the industry each year as 'jumpers' or 'glowboys' to repair steam-turbine generators. They do manual jobs in which a few minutes of exposure puts them at the upper end of radiation limits set by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency.

GPU does not hire these so-called radiation sponges, maintaining that it does not need them.
—Ron Scherer, “Life Inside a 'Hot' Reactor,” U.S. News & World Report, November 12, 1984
1983 (earliest)
Most "glow boys" — the desperate workers who clean up the radioactive mess inside nuclear reactors — do their dirty work and then fade silently away.
—Susan Jaffe, “Glow Boy Shocks Utility,” Mother Jones, April 01, 1983
A glowboy is also known as a radiation sponge, a term that dates to 1984 (see the second citation).
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