Definitions

licensed operator

Reactor operator

A reactor operator (or nuclear reactor operator) is an individual at a nuclear power plant who is responsible for directly controlling a nuclear reactor from a control panel and is the only individual at a nuclear power plant who can directly alter significant amounts of reactor reactivity. A reactor operator is a position of great responsibility that may require him or her to start up a nuclear reactor, shut down a critical nuclear reactor, monitor reactor parameters, or respond to a casualty of the nuclear reactor. All reactor operators are required to be licensed or qualified by their respective governing body (for example, the NRC for U.S. civilian nuclear reactors and Naval Reactors for U.S. naval reactors).

United States

Civilian Reactor Operator Licensing

There are two types of civilian reactor operators licensed by the NRC: reactor operators (RO) and senior reactor operators (SRO).

Reactor Operator

A reactor operator is an individual who has met the licensing requirements of 10 CFR 55 and NUREG-1021 for being a reactor operator. These requirements include:

  • A high school diploma
  • At least 3 years of power plant experience with at least 1 year of experience at the nuclear power plant where the individual is licensed (not including time spent as a control room operator).
  • At least 6 months of experience performing plant operational duties at the nuclear power plant where the individual is licensed
  • At least 3 months of experience as a control room operator at the nuclear power plant where the individual is licensed
  • Completion of the nuclear power plant's reactor operator training program
  • Supervised manipulation of the controls of the nuclear reactor for certain operations affecting reactor power level
  • A successful medical examination meeting NRC requirements
  • Passing the NRC Generic Fundamentals Examination
  • Passing the nuclear power plant's reactor operator test
  • Passing the nuclear power plant's Operating Test (approved by the NRC) which covers knowledge of the nuclear power plant components, knowledge of casualty response, and responses to simulated causalities and plant evolutions in an approved simulator.

A reactor operator is licensed to manipulate the controls of a nuclear reactor which may alter reactivity and change the power level. Typically, this means that a reactor operator is qualified to remotely operate control rods and other remote actions required to control the reactor as desired (within regulatory requirements).

Senior Reactor Operator

A senior reactor operator is an individual who has met the licensing requirements of 10 CFR 55 and NUREG-1021 for being a senior reactor operator. These requirements are similar to the requirements for a reactor operator, except:

  • At least 3 years of nuclear power plant experience is required instead of 3 years of general power plant experience
  • A bachelor's degree in engineering is required unless the operator has had 1 year of experience as a licensed reactor operator or 2 years of experience qualified in certain senior watch stations in the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (including that of a naval reactor operator).
  • More extensive supervised manipulations of the controls of the nuclear reactor for certain operations affecting reactor power level
  • Completion of the nuclear power plant's senior reactor operator training program
  • Passing the nuclear power plant's senior reactor operator test
  • Passing a more extensive plant Operating Test which also includes supervisory and administrative actions.

A senior reactor operator is licensed to manipulate the controls of a nuclear reactor and direct others to manipulate controls. A senior reactor operator is the senior watch stander in a control room and is responsible for directing the operation of the nuclear reactor as desired (within regulatory requirements).

Trainee

The only other person who may manipulate the controls of a US civilian nuclear power reactor is an individual who:

  • Is under the direction and in the presence of a licensed operator or senior operator
  • Manipulates the controls of a facility as a part of the individual's training
  • Is enrolled in the facility licensee's training program as approved by the Commission to qualify for an operator license under 10CFR Part 55

References

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