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Offline Rennhack

Article by Jerry W. Hiatt and William H. Barley
Bartlett Nuclear, Inc.
60 Industrial Park Road; Plymouth, MA 02360
Reprinted from Radiation Protection Management Journal
Vol.5 No.5 (Sept/Oct 1988), pp. 70-74.
Copyright © 1988 The Techrite Company, all rights reserved.


In commercial nuclear power stations, health physics (radiation protection) technicians are primarily responsible for evaluating station radiological conditions and for supporting the work of other station departments in radiological areas. Stations are committed (via Technical Specifications and other modes) to ensuring that technicians in "responsible positions " (i.e., technicians who must make significant radiation protection decisions on their own, without immediate review by supervisors) are qualified as "technicians " in accordance with designated industry standards. Qualification, in this sense, consists of meeting the experience and training criteria specified in the applicable standards. Unfortunately, these criteria are quite general, and major differences in interpretation exist throughout the nuclear power industry. A more consis­tent approach to interpreting the qualification criteria would benefit utilities and contractors.

The guidelines proposed here provide a means for evaluating the experience and training of health physics technicians versus industry standards. Particular attention is directed towards the amount of experience that can be "credited " for work at non-commercial nuclear facilities and for jobs at commercial power facilities that are related to but are not the same as health physics technicians. These guidelines are intended to be used to assist with the evaluation of an individual's background for consideration as a "senior technician, " but they are only one means of doing so. In addition, the individual's technical knowledge should be evaluated through either oral or written testing, past work performance should be evaluated through previous observation or reference checks, and on-the-job performance should be confirmed by supervision. All of the above should be a part of the qualification process for health physics technicians assigned to responsible positions.


For personnel selection and training, most nuclear power plants are committed to using the criteria in one of the versions of the American National Standard for Selection and Training of Nuclear Power Plant Personnel -- either ANSI N18.1-1971 or its replacement, ANSI/ANS 3.1-1978. ANSI/ANS 3.1 was revised in 1981 and again in 1987. The 1981 revision incorporated "lessons learned " from the Three Mile Island accident, and the 1987 revision incorporates systematic training through job task analysis. The 1987 version of ANSI/ANS 3.1 may be adopted in the future as more commercial power plants revise their training programs; however, at the current time, most power plants are using the criteria in the 1978 version.

 ANSI N18.1-1971 does not include qualification criteria specifically for health physics technicians. Instead, the standard includes a generic "Technicians " job category, the qualifications for which are stated as follows (Section 4.5.2):Technicians in responsible positions shall have a minimum of two years of working experience in their specialty. These personnel should have a minimum of one year of related technical training in addition to their experience.

This generic technician qualification formula was modified and expanded in ANSI/ANS 3.1-1978 (Section 4.5.2), as follows: Technicians shall have three years of working experience in their specialty of which one year should be related technical training. They should possess a high degree of manual dexterity and ability and should be capable of learning and applying basic skills.

In contrast to earlier versions, the "Technicians " category in ANSI/ANS 3.1-1987 includes qualification criteria specifically for "Radiation Protection " (Section, which are itemized as follows:

  • Education: High School Diploma
  • Experience: Minimum experience for this position:
  • Radiation Protection which shall include: 2 years
  • Nuclear Power Plant 1 years
  • On site 3 months
  • Training: As specified in Section 6.

The "Section 6 " criteria cover initial and continuing training after an individual is employed as a technician but not pre-employment training.  

Despite the fact that the qualification criteria have become more specific with each revision, there is still plenty of room for interpreting "experience" and "related technical training." There is even room for disagreement over what constitutes a year.


Although the "normal " work year of 50 weeks consists of approximately 2000 hours, due to the extended shifts worked at nuclear power plants during outages (up to 72 hours per week), 2000 hours can be accumulated in much less than a year -- in only 28 weeks at 72 hours per week. Is such a compressed period really a full year's worth of experience? Probably not, and so a compromise between time worked and the pas­sage of the calendar is needed. A maximum of 50 hours per week should be accepted as counting towards experience. Stated another way, a "year " consists of 2000 hours worked in no less than 40 weeks. With this definition, in order to have two years of "experience, " a technician would need at least 80 weeks of employment and a documented 4000 hours of acceptable health physics experience.


With the advent of training and qualification programs accredited by the National Academy for Nuclear Training (Institute of Nuclear Power Operations), there is the temptation to consider personnel who have completed their instruction and qualification as being capable of functioning in responsible positions. However, the experience requirements of the ANSI/ANS standards are justifiable, and they should be adhered to because of the "having been there before " factor. Much like a pilot, regardless of the amount of simulator time a person may have, a given number of solo hours are required to confirm how an individual will react under actual conditions. Nevertheless, not all of these solo hours must be accumulated in the same plane or on the same job -- similar aircraft and similar jobs are acceptable substitutes, provided that allowances are made for the amount of experience that can be credited towards the desired qualification. Using this rationale, Table 1 presents guidelines for accepting commercial and non-commercial nuclear experience towards qualification as a senior health physics technician. The reasoning behind these guidelines is explained in the following sections.  

Navy Engineering Laboratory Technician (ELT)  

Time spent in the U.S. Navy as a qualified Engineering Laboratory Technician (ELT) during non-overhaul periods may be accepted on a one ­for-one basis, but with a limit of one year due to the nature of work aboard ships at sea. During operational periods, an ELT performs primarily chemistry duties and only routine radiological controls coverage. There is, however, some minor maintenance coverage and significant drills, which can justify the acceptance of up to one year of this time.

Table 1:Guidelines for Acceptable Experience for Health Physics Technicians in "Responsible" Positions at Nuclear Power Stations

Job/Experience TypeCredit
Navy ELT (non-overhaul)1:1 up to I year
Navy ELT (overhaul)1:1 no limit
Shipyard/Tender RadCon 1:1 no limit
National Laboratory1:1 no limit
Fuel Reprocessing/Plutonium Production1:1 no limit
NPP Sr. or Jr. HP Tech 1:1 no limit
NPP Dosimetry Tech1:1 up to 6 months
NPP Respiratory Protection Tech1:1 up to 6 months
NPP Count Room Tech 1:1 up to 6 months
NPP Control Point Monitor1:1 up to 3 months
NPP Laundry Monitor 1:1 up to 3 months
NPP Decon (with surveys)1:1 up to 3 months
NPP General Employee Training HP Instructor1:1 up to 6 months
NPP HP Tech Instructor 1: 1 up to 1 year
Radioactive Facility DecommissioningCase-by-case
Miscellaneous HP Work at Other FacilitiesCase-by-case

The actual duties associated with each job should be reviewed to confirm the acceptability of the experience. A minimum of 6 to 12 months of health physics job coverage experience should be required for qualification as a senior technician.  

Time spent as an ELT during overhaul periods may be counted in addition to non-overhaul time on a one-to-one basis with no limit. During overhaul periods, ELTs provide radiological con­trols coverage for major inspection and repair operations (e.g., steam generator work, refueling, and primary system valve/piping replacement). However, a review of the actual work performed is recommended to ensure that the job coverage involved justifies the time credited towards ex­perience as a health physics technician.

Shipyard and Tender RadCon Personnel

Several "RadCon" job categories, both civilian and military, involve substantial health physics experience. The civilian categories consist primarily of RadCon Monitors at the naval shipyards, while the Navy qualifications include RadCon Shift Supervisors (ELTs) and RadCon Monitors (various rates) on submarine and destroyer tenders with nuclear support facilities. By the very nature of the work involved -­nuclear plant overhaul and repair -- shipyard and tender RadCon jobs may be accepted on a one-for-one basis with no limit, but subject to review to determine that the actual duties and job coverage provided are acceptable towards senior health physics technician status. In the case of tender personnel, the time spent in the home port and on rotation should be evaluated in the same manner as for ELTs -- non-overhaul time should be limited to one year of acceptance but there should be no limit for times of major radiological support activities.

National Laboratories

The national laboratories operate a variety of facilities with broad scope radioactive material programs, including accelerators, research reactors, and high-level radioisotope facilities. Due to the scopes of the programs at these facilities, the problems encountered by the health physics technician may be similar to those of a commercial power reactor. Thus, the time for work in a health physics capacity at one of the major na­tional labs (e.g., Argonne, Fermi, Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, etc.) may be accepted on a one-for-one basis with no limit. However, actual job duties must be reviewed to confirm the appropriateness of the experience.

Fuel Reprocessing/Plutonium Production

The problems and work in fuel reprocessing plants and plutonium production facilities (Idaho, Hanford, and Savannah River) are perhaps the most similar to those at commercial nuclear power plants. Gross contamination and high dose rates are to be expected, and major amounts of work are performed under adverse radiological conditions. This time may be accepted on a one-for-one basis with no limit.

Commercial Nuclear Power Plants -- Health Physics Job Coverage

Obviously, since junior and senior health physics technician positions at nuclear power stations involve exactly the type of work for which the individual is being evaluated, this time is acceptable on a one-for-one basis with no limit. However, "health physics technician " is a broad category at some plants; therefore, the precise work covered and duties performed should be evaluated for acceptability, especially if the individual has worked for short periods of time at many different facilities.

Commercial Nuclear Power Plants -- Other HP-Related Jobs

The experience acceptance limitations given in Table 1 for commercial nuclear plant job functions related to health physics, but not directly involved with job coverage, were derived from estimates of the percentage of a technician's job that would be associated with a given function. These percentages were then applied to the two-year requirement to arrive at the acceptance limits, as follows:

Dosimetry25%x 2 yrs = 6 mos
Respiratory protection25%x 2 yrs = 6 mos
Counting room25%x 2 yrs = 6 mos
Control point12.5% x 2 yrs = 3 mos
Laundry monitoring 12.5% x 2 yrs = 3 mos
Decontamination12.5% x 2 yrs = 3 mos
General Employee Trng25% x 2 yrs = 6 mos
HP Tech training 50%x 2 yrs = 12 mos

This rationale can be applied to any HP -related position in commercial nuclear power plants. The positions listed in Table 1 are the primary job functions for which experience can be credited; however, there will be exceptions (e.g., the plant that trains chemists to provide self-coverage or to perform emergency back shift health physics duties). Regardless of the total amount of time accepted for "other HP-related jobs, " a minimum of 6 to 12 months of actual job coverage experience (depending upon the capabilities of the individual and the hazards associated with the jobs to be covered) should be obtained before an individual is considered qualified for senior technician duties.


Credit for health physics coverage of decom­missioning activities must be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the type of facility and the radiological problems involved. Obviously, if the decommissioning is that of a power reactor or fuel reprocessing plant, the problems encountered would be similar to those in a commercial nuclear power station. However, many radium use facilities, research reactors, and contaminated laboratories are being decommissioned; therefore, the problems associated with each facility should be examined to determine if and how much time can be credited.

Miscellaneous Health Physics Work  

The job categories and facilities listed in Table 1 are by no means the only ones that are acceptable for crediting towards experience as a health physics technician at a nuclear power plant. Other positions, such as commercial chemistry technicians, emergency planners, university and research reactor technicians, radiographers, and pharmaceutical company HP's, involve experience that can be applied on a case-by-case basis. These should be evaluated on the basis of the amounts of radioactive material used, isotopes involved, dose rates encountered, and specific work performed.


Table 2 presents guidelines for acceptable related technical training for a senior health physics technician. The table is quite straight­forward, except for the following:

  • The Health Physics Certificate from Eastern Idaho Vocational Technical School is limited to nine months credit because the program of study is nine months long.
  • Any B.S. or advanced degree in a science or engineering is accepted since, traditionally, these have been accepted toward supervisory positions. These degrees certainly provide a background that should enable the individuals to grasp the technical aspects of health physics work.
  • U.S. Navy ELT training consists of six months at Nuclear Power School, six months of operator qualification, and six months of health physics and chemistry training/qualification. Taken as a whole, this may be considered equivalent to the Associate degree programs being given in colleges and universities.
  • Non-university, Industry (vendor) training may be accepted if the course material, length of study, and course testing methods are evaluated and related to health physics.
  • For utility-sponsored training, the time spent in training is usually already included in the time credited as "experience " and should not be counted twice.

Table 2:Guidelines for Acceptable Related Technical Training for Health Physics Technicians in "Responsible " Positions at Nuclear Power Plants

Eastern Idaho Vocational Technical (Certificate Program in Rad Prot)9 months
Central Florida Community College (A.S. degree in Radiation Protection)1 year
Other Associate degrees in Rad Health1 year
B.S. or advanced degree in Rad Health1 year
B.S./advanced degree in science/engineer1 year
Navy Engineering Laboratory Tech1 year
Non-university health physics coursesCase-by-Case
Utility -sponsored training programsYear


Through discussion amongst the utilities and contractors involved in the selection and qualification of health physics technicians, hopefully, experience and training criteria can be applied more uniformly and consistently. The guidelines presented here are, obviously, not "etched in stone ". They are suggestions only, but they may, in the future, eliminate some of the confusion on the part of health physics personnel concerning selection and qualification standards.

The Authors
William H. Barley is the Vice President -­Technical Services for Bartlett Nuclear, Inc. He has more than 18 years of experience with nuclear service companies, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and utilities. Mr. Barley holds a B.S. degree in Chemical Engineering from Pennsylvania State University, and he is certified (power reactor) by the American Board of Health Physics.

Jerry W. Hiatt is the Manager -- Technical Services for Bartlett Nuclear, Inc. He has more than 13 years of utility, USNRC, and consulting experience. Mr. Hiatt holds a B.S. degree in Biology (Health Physics Option) from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, and he is certified (power reactor) by the American Board of Health Physics. He currently serves on the Health Physics Society's Federal and State Legislative Committee and is on the Board of Directors of the Nuclear Suppliers Association.

EDITOR’S NOTES (From Rennhack)

Mr. Barley is currently the President of Rosebar Associates, (602-563-0636) an independent consulting firm that provides radiation protection and managerial consulting services to both the commercial nuclear power industry and Department of Energy clients.

Mr. Hiatt is currently the President – Technical Services of Bartlett Nuclear, Inc. and has served as the Chair of the American Board of Health Physics (ABHP) Part 1 Certification Exam Panel as a member of the ABHP Part 2 Certification Exam Panel.


Mr. Hiatt is currently Senior Project Mgr at the Nuclear Energy Institute.
« Last Edit: Feb 13, 2015, 01:16 by Rennhack »


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