Nuclear plant operators hold federal licenses to operate or supervise reactor controls. They must be certified physically fit and mentally sound to operate a plant. All plant employees are subject to background and criminal history checks before they set foot in the plant. Obtaining an operator license requires extensive training before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission tests and certifies the operator.
“The 18-month training is all inclusive,” explains Carrie Gilbreath, Project Manager for Fleet ER Plant Health. “It’s not just classroom training. That part is rigorous, because an operator is required to recall a very large amount of information from memory, but there is also job performance and reactor control room simulator training that ensures the operator is always putting nuclear safety first. The simulator scenarios are intended to feel real, so the operator is prepared to handle any situation they may see in the control room.”
Reactor operators complete Continuing Training throughout the life of their license, spending one week sharpening their skills in the classroom and the simulator for every five weeks of work.
“The Continuing Training makes sure operators stay sharp,” says Gilbreath. “There is a great benefit to having a working simulator on plant site. Operations training models plant scenarios for practice in real time. Operator teams are then able to simulate high-risk evolutions prior to performing the work.”