What Do Nuclear Power Reactor Operators Do?
Nuclear power reactor operators work to produce energy within strict safety standards in the nuclear industry. They operate and control nuclear reactors. Operators move control rods, operate and monitor equipment, and record data in logs. They are also responsible for executing emergency procedures if it becomes necessary.There is expected to be a modest 1% annual growth in new positions for power reactor operators over the next few decades. That averages out to about 230 new job openings per year. This slow growth may be due to in part to the economy looking for alternative fuel sources.
Nuclear Power Reactor Operators Skills and Abilities
A nuclear power reactor operator would need to have a strong background in math, science, engineering, and technology. Being familiar with the basic laws of physics as well as grasping higher mathematical concepts will be necessary. You would also need to have mechanical skills and be comfortable with machinery and tools. You should expect to be well- versed in public safety procedures and emergency management. You would need attention to detail and the ability to switch between tasks for success in this line of work.Other helpful skills include:
- Monitoring, operating, and controlling equipment and systems.
- Critical thinking and troubleshooting.
- Information ordering and categorizing.
- Oral and reading comprehension.
- Communication skills.
Nuclear Power Reactor Operators Duties
Nuclear energy is a highly regulated industry, so an operator will have to follow policies to shelter workers from radiation while operating nuclear power reactors. Power reactor operators will also need to safeguard the community and the environment. They adjust and monitor controls to position rods and regulate coolant temperatures. They will develop or follow action plans to enable safe repairs of equipment. A nuclear operator is also responsible for recognizing any abnormalities and addressing the cause to resolve any potentially hazardous issues. This position is responsible for monitoring systems and operating any power plant equipment. Any problems must be noted and reported to supervisory staff. An operator may also assist in handling and moving radioactive element materials. All job duties must be in accordance with strict safety regulations and procedures. You can expect to record data frequently for administrative purposes.
Nuclear Power Reactor Operators Tools and Technology
You will be working with a variety of equipment specific to the nuclear industry. Air samplers are employed for monitoring quality of air. Radiation monitoring instruments are also relied on to track and record data. You will operate control panels and nuclear reactor rod systems. Computer software is frequently used as well, especially databases and spreadsheets for monitoring and registering meter readings and following safety protocols.
Education and Training for Nuclear Power Reactor Operators
You can perform this job with a high school diploma, although a large number of operators have completed some college coursework. You will be training on-the-job for some time as you get experience and proficiency in the duties and skills needed for success in the nuclear industry. Instructional programs in nuclear power technology, which may be available at a local community college or vocational school, can also help you learn skills for work in this industry.
Nuclear Power Reactor Operators Salary
This career can be quite lucrative depending on where you live and your level of experience. The median salary for a nuclear power reactor operator is $82,500. The bottom 10% can make $62,900, while the top 10% earn over $103,000.
Nuclear Power Reactor Operators Jobs by Geography
A job in nuclear energy may not be available in every state. The states with the greatest number of positions are New Jersey, South Carolina, and Pennsylvania. The highest median salaries are found in California, New York, and Virginia.