If you are like many professionals in the energy industry are interested in growing your career in power plant operation, keep reading. Operator jobs are an excellent opportunity for technicians to develop their skills and make a real difference in the industry and their community as well. Here’s what it takes to become a nuclear power plant operator, specifically when it comes to planning for the education and training needed to succeed in this role.
An Overview of the Power Plant Operator Role
Nuclear power plant operators are tasked with monitoring the power-generating equipment within a plant. This includes nuclear reactors and other equipment within the control rooms. They control the systems that generate and distribute electrical power to customers of the nuclear energy facility. Most workers in this position are employed full-time and work rotating shifts. The average salary for power plant operators is a little more than $70,000, but with an aging workforce, more opportunities are sure to increase demand for these professionals in the coming years.
Power plant operators are responsible for controlling power-generating equipment, reading charts, meters, and gauges that monitor voltage and electricity flows. They check equipment and indicators to detect evidence of operating problems and adjust controls to regulate the flow of power as needed. They are responsible for starting or stopping generators, turbines, and other equipment as necessary.
To complete these tasks, operators need to have strong concentration skills, be careful, and attentive to monitor the temperature of reactors over a certain length of time. They need to be highly detail-oriented with the problem-solving skills that will help to find and quickly solve issues that arise with equipment or controls. This also requires a certain amount of dexterity and mechanical skills that help operate, repair, and maintain equipment.
Formal Education and Training
Power plant operators need at least a high school diploma, but many employers prefer applicants with a college or degree from a vocational school. Candidates with a strong math and science background do well in highly technical jobs such as this. Understanding electricity and math, especially algebra and trigonometry, is essential. Formal training, however, is also very important. Such training is generally pretty extensive and takes place on-the-job. Operators are expected to keep their skills up to date through further training courses throughout their careers.
Nuclear power plant operators often begin their careers as non-licensed operators, helping more experienced workers operate and maintain the equipment while learning the basics of how to operate the power plant. After in-plant training and licensing through the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), they can become licensed reactor operators.
To become licensed, they must meet certain requirements, pass a medical exam, and pass the NRC licensing exam. To keep their license, operators must pass a plant-operating exam each year, pass a medical exam every two years, and apply for the renewal of their license every six years. However, requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to dig deeper into the requirements where you plan to take a position because they might be different.
Find Out More About the Career Path of a Power Plant Operator
To learn more about the career path of a power plant operator contact ESGI and read more about the requirements and resources available at the American Public Power Association, the Center for Energy Workforce Development, and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.