Operators receive rigorous training and must hold valid federal licenses to operate or supervise the controls of a commercial nuclear reactor.
Reactor Operators Undergo Rigorous Training
Operators must complete extensive training and pass rigorous examinations to receive a license to operate a nuclear power plant. Licensed operators must maintain and renew their licenses and are required to maintain their proficiency by completing requalification training and examination programs. Applicants also must undergo recurring physical examinations and be certified physically and mentally fit to be an operator.
Before the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licenses an individual to operate or supervise operators of a nuclear power reactor, the applicant must have several years of related experience and complete extensive classroom, simulator and on-the-job training.
The National Nuclear Accrediting Board reviews and accredits the operator training programs, under the auspices of the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations, and its activities are monitored by the NRC.
Additionally, all nuclear power plant employees are subject to background and criminal history checks before they are granted access to the plant.
The National Academy for Nuclear Training Educational Assistance Program provides scholarships and fellowships for engineering students who want to enter the nuclear industry.
For more information on training see the NRC's fact sheet on operator licensing.
Screening Process Helps Ensure Safety
The NRC requires all nuclear power plants to maintain an access authorization program. The purpose is to ensure that each person granted unescorted access to the facility is trustworthy and reliable and does not pose a threat to plant operations.
New nuclear plant employees or contractor employees must pass several tests and background checks before they are allowed unescorted access to protected areas, such as the reactor building.
The NRC requires companies that operate nuclear power plants to have a fitness-for-duty program for all personnel with unescorted access to vital areas of the plant. The NRC requires companies to conduct random drug and alcohol testing on their employees. At least half of all employees are tested annually.