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Nuclear power reactor operators perform similar tasks at a nuclear power plant. Most start working as equipment operators or auxiliary operators. At this stage, they help the more senior workers with equipment maintenance and operation while learning the basics of plant operation. With experience and training they may be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission as reactor operators, making them authorized to control equipment that affects the power of the reactor in a nuclear power plant. Senior reactor operators supervise the operation of all controls in the control room. At least one senior operator must be on duty during each shift to act as the plant supervisor.
Nuclear power reactor operators must pass an examination and maintain licenses administered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Before beginning training, a nuclear power plant operator must have 3 years of power plant experience. At least 1 of the 3 years must be at the nuclear power plant where the operator is to be licensed, and 6 months should be as a nonlicensed operator at the plant. Training generally takes at least 1 year, after which the worker must take an NRC-administered written examination and operating test. To maintain their licenses, reactor operators must pass an annual practical plant-operating exam and a biennial written exam administered by their employers. Reactor operators can upgrade their licenses to the senior-reactor-operator level after a year of licensed experience at the plant by taking another examination given by the NRC. Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in engineering or the equivalent may apply for senior operator’s licenses directly if they have 3 years of nuclear power plant experience, with at least 6 months at the site. Training includes simulator and on-the-job training, classroom instruction, and individual study. Experience in other power plants or with Navy nuclear-propulsion plants also is helpful. Although waivers are possible, licensed nuclear power reactor operators and senior operators generally have to pass a new written examination and operating test administered by the NRC if they transfer to another facilit
Because power transmission is both vitally important and sensitive to attacks, security is a major concern for energy companies. Nuclear power plants and transmission stations have especially high security, and workers should be prepared to work in secured environments.
Suggested citation: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook
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