The Navy - A Valuable Tool for the Nuclear Industry

The United State Nuclear Navy program provides a valuable pipeline for talent to commercial nuclear operations across the country. A significant number of commercial nuclear workers begin their careers in the nuclear navy.

Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, often referred to as the “father of nuclear energy,” is widely credited with beginning the nuclear program. Through his efforts the Navy launched its first nuclear submarine, the USS Nautilus, in 1954. Since that time, the Navy has been a fertile proving ground for commercial nuclear operations.

There are several reasons why people with Nuclear Navy experience are appealing to commercial nuclear plants. Chief amongst those is the Navy’s stellar nuclear record that produces workers with high standards. According to Forbes, “The Nuclear Navy has logged over 5,400 reactor years of accident-free operations and travelled over 130 million miles on nuclear energy, enough to circle the earth 3,200 times.” The same article cites that no civilian or military member has ever received a radiological dose that exceeded the Federal radiation limits. This type of excellence is attractive to nuclear utilities  that understand the demands of working in an environment that requires safe, precise operation.

“One of the benefits of someone with a Nuclear Navy background is they know that there are high expectations when it comes to nuclear power. They understand that excellence is our standard,”  Henry Curry, a training manager at Duke Energy’s Robinson Nuclear said.

In addition, members onboard nuclear submarines and ships receive a well-rounded education in nuclear energy, they are adept problem solvers. Repairs or issues that crop up on nuclear vessels are often dealt with hundreds or thousands of miles from support, requiring a broad understanding of nuclear operation and maintenance.

“A Navy Nuke has been exposed to every facet of nuclear operation from plant operations, maintenance, and training. They come in having seen how the entire system works, albeit on a much smaller scale, which makes them excellent nuclear operators,” Curry said.

From a cultural standpoint,  their training allows former Navy members to assimilate easily into nuclear plant culture. The importance of following procedures, understanding command and control, and working in a highly precise field are commonplace for former sailors.

It is important to remember that given the unique nature of each nuclear operation, even former Nuclear Navy members have to undergo extensive training before they work at a commercial nuclear facility .

“They still have to complete a similar training program, but they come in with a tremendous training advantage from their previous training and a cultural advantage from their experience working around nuclear energy,” Curry said.

The experience these men and women gained protecting our country now helps them to power it.

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