How to become a commercial nuclear plant operator?

In summary, the nuclear energy field is not as difficult as one may think, and a college degree may not be necessary to pursue a career in the field. There are many opportunities for those with experience, and a good work ethic can help one stand out.
  • #1
BenKlesc
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I have a question for anyone on here that has pursued the nuclear energy field. I'm interested in becoming an equipment technician or operator at a nuclear power plant, but I am already 26 years old. I understand that many of the operators and technicians were former Navy nukes. I looked into the college route as far as engineering schools like MIT, and the requirements to be accepted are insane with an incredible amount of advanced calculus courses and advanced chemical engineering courses, along with mic/mac economics.

I've talked to many people in the Navy, and they've told me that you don't have to be a genius when it comes to math and chemistry to service the equipment. I feel like the college route of nuclear engineering is really focused on design and back room implementation instead of physical hands-on labor which is what I would want to do. My question is, is there any educational path to learn how to repair and maintain nuclear reactors, pumps, hydraulics, pneumatics, electronics or becoming an operator on the control panels without joining the military or going to MIT? Do plants still train kids out of high school?

Or, would it be wise in the year 2020 to pursue a college degree?
 
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  • #3
BenKlesc said:
My question is, is there any educational path to learn how to repair and maintain nuclear reactors, pumps, hydraulics, pneumatics, electronics or becoming an operator on the control panels without joining the military or going to MIT? Do plants still train kids out of high school?
Utilities prefer to hire folks with experience, however they do hire entry level operators. Here are the minimal requirements/qualifications for an entry level position.

Qualifications

REQUIRED!

  • HS Diploma/GED
  • AND one of the following:
  • A Bachelors of Science degree in engineering, engineering technology, or related science program
  • OR
  • An Associates of Science degree in engineering, engineering technology or related science program or equivalency*
*Equivalency for the Associate of Science degree is established by meeting the criteria below:
  • 43 credit hours of post secondary education of which 75% (at least 8 courses or 32 hours) is advanced math, physics, chemistry and/or engineering/engineering technology. Transcripts will be required to verify coursework.

    OR
  • Documented training and experience applicable to power generation operating experience while a member of the Nuclear Navy program.

    OR
  • Experience in a non-generating nuclear power facility (e.g. military or DOE facility) may credit 0.5 years for each year of experience.

https://jobs.exeloncorp.com/jobs/54...ering-equipment-operators-limerick-nuclear-pa

If one were accepted to MIT, one would probably be encourage to strive to be an engineer as opposed to a technician. I know a number graduates from MIT, and most have advanced degrees and work in Academia, the major nuclear manufacturers (Framatome, GEH/GNF, Westinghouse, . . . ), national labs, startups, NRC, consulting companies, and maybe a few at utilities.
 
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  • #4
You should take a look at the NRC licensing requirements for Reactor Operator (RO) - and maybe SRO as well to see what your career path would be.

While you don't have to be licensed when hired - in fact, you usually can't - you want to be as far along as you can towards it. People competing for the same job will be.
 
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  • #5
I expect that the qualifications to be an electrician, instrument technician, IT staff, mechanic, security, or a plumber in a nuclear plant are less stringent than being an operator. You may be able to request the notices for open positions at a plant near you.
 
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  • #6
It has been a few years since I have worked in one of the plants but when I did, the power companies were very interested in hiring people and training them to do the work. Both maintenance work and operations. Pick out some plants and check their websites for open positions. There are several large companies that operate fleets of plants (Entergy and Exelon come to mind); if you start with those you may quickly find where the openings are. You will need to be willing to relocate and they might not pay for that, especially for an entry level position. Many of the plant sites are kind of remote, so the companies like to hire local people who are less likely to move back home after a couple of years.

One thing to watch for is whether the plant is likely to close in a few years. This is more common lately. Do a little research on any prospective plant and see if you can guess what the future holds.

Just a quick story - I worked at one plant where the site vice president (the top guy on site) started with the power company as a "helper" sweeping the floors. He worked his way up to the top. Granted this was back in the 1980s and things have changed. But maybe it shows the view these companies have - they're in it for the long term.
 
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Related to How to become a commercial nuclear plant operator?

1. What education and training is required to become a commercial nuclear plant operator?

To become a commercial nuclear plant operator, you typically need at least a high school diploma or equivalent. However, most employers prefer candidates with a college degree in engineering, physics, or a related field. You will also need to complete extensive training and pass a series of exams to obtain a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license.

2. What skills are necessary for a career as a commercial nuclear plant operator?

Strong technical and analytical skills are crucial for a career as a commercial nuclear plant operator. You should also have excellent problem-solving abilities, attention to detail, and the ability to work well under pressure. Good communication and teamwork skills are also important, as operators often work in teams and must be able to communicate effectively with other plant personnel.

3. How long does it take to become a licensed commercial nuclear plant operator?

The amount of time it takes to become a licensed commercial nuclear plant operator can vary, but it typically takes at least 18 months to 2 years of training and on-the-job experience. This includes completing a training program at a nuclear power plant and passing a series of exams to obtain a Nuclear Regulatory Commission license.

4. Are there any physical requirements to become a commercial nuclear plant operator?

While there are no specific physical requirements to become a commercial nuclear plant operator, you will need to be able to perform tasks that may require standing for long periods, climbing ladders, and carrying heavy equipment. You may also need to pass a medical exam to ensure you are physically fit for the job.

5. What is the job outlook for commercial nuclear plant operators?

The job outlook for commercial nuclear plant operators is expected to remain steady in the coming years. While there may be some closures of older plants, there is also a growing demand for nuclear energy and a need for skilled operators to work at new plants. Additionally, as experienced operators retire, there will be job openings for new operators to fill those positions.

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