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Become A Nuclear Reactor Operator

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Working As A Nuclear Reactor Operator

  • Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards
  • Getting Information
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Deal with People

  • Stressful

  • Make Decisions

  • Repetitive

  • $29,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Nuclear Reactor Operator Do

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control the systems that generate and distribute electric power.

Duties

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers typically do the following:

  • Control power-generating equipment, which may use any one type of fuel, such as coal, nuclear fuel, or natural gas
  • Read charts, meters, and gauges to monitor voltage and electricity flows
  • Check equipment and indicators to detect evidence of operating problems
  • Adjust controls to regulate the flow of power
  • Start or stop generators, turbines, and other equipment as necessary

Electricity is one of our nation’s most vital resources. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers control power plants and the flow of electricity from plants to substations, which distribute electricity to businesses, homes, and factories. Electricity is generated from many sources, including coal, gas, nuclear energy, hydroelectric energy (from water sources), and wind and solar power.

Nuclear power reactor operators control nuclear reactors. They adjust control rods, which affect how much electricity a reactor generates. They monitor reactors, turbines, generators, and cooling systems, adjusting controls as necessary. Operators also start and stop equipment and record the data produced. They may need to respond to abnormalities, determine the causes, and take corrective action.

Power distributors and dispatchers, also known as systems operators, control the flow of electricity as it travels from generating stations to substations and users. In exercising such control, operators monitor and operate current converters, voltage transformers, and circuit breakers over a network of transmission and distribution lines. They prepare and issue switching orders to route electrical currents around areas that need maintenance or repair. They must detect and respond to emergencies, such as transformer or transmission line failures, which can cause cascading power outages over the network of transmission and distribution lines they control. They may work with plant operators to troubleshoot electricity generation issues.

Power plant operators control, operate, and maintain machinery to generate electricity. They use control boards to distribute power among generators and regulate the output of several generators. They monitor instruments to maintain voltage and electricity flows from the plant to meet consumer demand for electricity—demand that fluctuates throughout the day.

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How To Become A Nuclear Reactor Operator

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers need extensive on-the-job training, which may include a combination of classroom and hands-on training. Nuclear power reactor operators also need a license. Many jobs require a background check, and workers are subject to drug and alcohol screenings.

Many companies require prospective workers to take the Power Plant Maintenance and Plant Operator exams from the Edison Electrical Institute to see if they have the right aptitudes for this work. These tests measure reading comprehension, understanding of mechanical concepts, spatial ability, and mathematical ability.

Education

Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers need at least a high school diploma. However, employers may prefer workers who have a college or vocational school degree.

Employers generally look for people with strong math and science backgrounds for these highly technical jobs. Understanding electricity and math, especially algebra and trigonometry, is important.

Training

Power plant operators and dispatchers undergo rigorous, long-term on-the-job training and technical instruction. Several years of onsite training and experience are necessary for a worker to become fully qualified. Even fully qualified operators and dispatchers must take regular training courses to keep their skills up to date.

Nuclear power reactor operators usually start working as equipment operators or auxiliary operators, helping more experienced workers operate and maintain the equipment while learning the basics of how to operate the power plant.

Along with this extensive on-the-job training, nuclear power plant operators typically receive formal technical training to prepare for the license exam from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Once licensed, operators are authorized to control equipment that affects the power of the reactor in a nuclear power plant. Operators continue frequent onsite training, which familiarizes them with new monitoring systems that provide operators better real-time information regarding the plant.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Nuclear power reactor operators must be licensed through the NRC. To become licensed, operators must meet training and experience requirements, pass a medical exam, and pass the NRC licensing exam. To keep their license, operators must pass a plant-operating exam each year, pass a medical exam every 2 years, and apply for renewal of their license every 6 years. Licenses cannot be transferred between plants, so an operator must get a new license to operate in another facility.

Power plant operators who do not work at a nuclear power reactor may be licensed as engineers or firefighters by state licensing boards. Requirements vary by state and depend on the specific job functions that the operator performs.

Power distributors and dispatchers who are in positions in which they could affect the power grid must be certified through the North American Electric Reliability Corporation’s System Operator Certification Program. With sufficient training and experience, workers can become shift supervisors, trainers, or consultants.

Nuclear power plant operators begin working in nuclear power plants, typically as nonlicensed operators. After in-plant training and passing the NRC licensing exam, they become licensed reactor operators. Licensed operators can then advance to senior reactor operators, who supervise the operation of all controls in the control room. Senior reactor operators also may become plant managers or licensed operator instructors.

Important Qualities

Concentration skills. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must be careful, attentive, and persistent. They must be able to concentrate on a task, such as monitoring the temperature of reactors over a certain length of time without being distracted.

Detail oriented. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must monitor complex controls and intricate machinery to ensure that everything is operating properly.

Dexterity. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must use precise and repeated motions when working in a control room.

Mechanical skills. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must know how to work with machines and use tools. They must be familiar with how to operate, repair, and maintain equipment.

Problem-solving skills. Power plant operators, distributors, and dispatchers must find and quickly solve problems that arise with equipment or controls.

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Nuclear Reactor Operator Demographics

Gender

Male

87.2%

Unknown

8.9%

Female

3.9%
Ethnicity

White

64.8%

Hispanic or Latino

14.5%

Black or African American

10.8%

Asian

6.1%

Unknown

3.7%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

50.0%

Chinese

33.3%

Mandarin

16.7%

Nuclear Reactor Operator Education

Schools

Thomas Edison State University

12.5%

Excelsior College

9.4%

University of Phoenix

9.4%

Old Dominion University

8.3%

Thomas More College

8.3%

Washington State University

6.3%

University of California - San Diego

5.2%

Pennsylvania State University

4.2%

University of Washington

4.2%

University of Texas at Austin

4.2%

Georgia Institute of Technology -

3.1%

Citadel

3.1%

Naval Postgraduate School

3.1%

San Diego State University

3.1%

Charleston Southern University

3.1%

Kansas State University

3.1%

University of Kansas

3.1%

Rice University

2.1%

University of Connecticut

2.1%

University of Texas at Arlington

2.1%
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Majors

Business

14.1%

Electrical Engineering

10.9%

Nuclear Engineering Technology

8.3%

Nuclear And Industrial Radiologic Technologies

6.8%

Electrical Engineering Technology

5.2%

Biology

5.2%

Mechanical Engineering

5.2%

Computer Science

4.7%

Physics

4.7%

Chemical Engineering

4.2%

Nuclear Engineering

4.2%

Project Management

3.6%

Management

3.1%

Legal Research And Advanced Professional Studies

3.1%

Mathematics

3.1%

Finance

3.1%

Engineering

3.1%

Chemistry

2.6%

Computer Information Systems

2.6%

Accounting

2.1%
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Degrees

Bachelors

41.6%

Other

22.8%

Masters

20.8%

Associate

8.1%

Doctorate

4.0%

Certificate

2.0%

Diploma

0.7%
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Top Skills for A Nuclear Reactor Operator

  1. Nuclear Reactor
  2. Plant Operations
  3. Nuclear Submarine
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Oversee nuclear reactor operations and associated electronic equipment on United States Navy nuclear powered submarine, USS Sam Houston
  • Monitored nuclear propulsion plant operations, including instrumentation and throttle operation, primary valve operation, and radiation control points.
  • Participated in the shutdown and decommissioning of the USS Enterprise by monitoring indications, performing maintenance and completing supporting paperwork.
  • Trained to work on electrical systems in Naval Nuclear Propulsion Plants.
  • Performed scheduled maintenance on the reactor plant control and instrumentation systems during operation and shutdown periods.

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