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tommybenson

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Commercial Nuke Questions...
« on: Mar 19, 2006, 11:21 »
I havent been around nukes since the Navy- over 12 yrs ago. I have since been working fossil fuels. Most of my experience is combined cycle and I have been CRO for the last four yrs.
I am considering getting back into the nuke world.
My request is for some of you guys to do your best comparisons and contrasts between navy and commercial nukes. I'm interested to know about the classes I'll be taking during the first few months I'm there. Am I expected to come in knowing most of what I learned way back in the navy, or is all the info presented once again and all you have to do is study and pass the tests? I'm good with tests and I know I'll learn if the info is presented in its entirety again, but I think there might be problems if I need to remember all what was taught in the navy. Its funny how out in the real world it really doesnt matter how many gpm a pump puts out- it always seems to be enough. Those darn engineers. Or, its funny how a pump head curve really doesnt mean anything- as long as you know what to expect when you manipulate different valves in the system. I have never used a pump curve since leaving the navy. In fact, I never used one after I left NNPS that I can recall.
I guess what I'm saying is that a lot of it , I intentionally forgot because it is irrellevent. About the only thing I carry with me to this day is being able to draw everything- even after 12 yrs out. I feel that that is very important.
From what I'm reading here, I get the impression that a naval reactor is a tinker toy compared to a commercial reactor. So, with that said, I'll ask a few questions....

1) Do you think NNPS was tougher than the classes you took when you started at your first commercial nuke?
2) To what level are you expected to be crosstrained? (I am heavy in operational theory and procedure, and I can hold my own with mechanical type things. I have little to no abilities as an I&C or electrician)
3) Will I ever have to stand before another man while he gives me elevator eyes and comments on my shave?
4) As long as I'm on schedule or ahead of schedule, will I ever have someone bothering me with questions as to where I stand with quals and wondering why I'm not further along?


I never had trouble at NNPS or prototype....and I really dont look forward to having any at a commercial plant either....but I have seen many guys in Navy put up with crap they really shouldnt have had to deal with.

I welcome any other comparisons or comments anyone may have as well. Thanks in advance.

shayne

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #1 on: Mar 19, 2006, 02:10 »
The training program as a Non Licenced Operator were very similiar to prototype.  At Fermi we started out with the basic administrative classes, radcon, basic chemistry, licensing, fire brigade, confined space rescue, electrical safety, etc.  Then we did BWR General Fundamentals (http://www.nrc.gov/reactors/operator-licensing/generic-fundamentals-examinations.html).  Then we got into the systems training.  Systems was fairly basic, how it works, what is the purpose, some setpoints, plant tour, some operating procedures, maybe little theory also.  Once the classroom phase was over, off to the plant to perform qualifications.  Qual card with lists of procedures, testing, system checkouts for each of the areas (Turbine, Reactor, Outside, Radwaste, Admin).  Overall it should take about a year to year and half.

You will be crosstrained as an Operator.  There really isn't a distinction between mechanical systems, electrical system, reactor systems when it comes to operating like the Navy.  As an operator you will be required to open/close valves, fill and vent systems, pull fuses, rack breakers, operate diesels, and perform all tagging.

Because the commercial nuclear power plant is so large and complex compared to the Navy Reactors, as far as operating goes, you will very seldom operate anything without another operator there to "peer check" to minimize any mistakes that you may make.  You also will never do anything with a procedure or some written instructions to do so.  There are "placekeeping" tools to help you follow the procedure correctly so that you don't miss anything.

There will be no one there to make sure that your shoes are shined and that your shirt is ironed.  You may have to keep a clean shave for Fire Brigade or for RP respirators. 

Your combined cycle experience should help you adjust also.  As you know the steam cycle of a combined cycle is more complex than the Navy.  The commercial world has more complex steam cycles to maximize efficency also.

You will have someone there to make sure your qual progress is progressing.  Keep in mind that many of your pay raises may be based on getting qualified. 

tommybenson

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #2 on: Mar 19, 2006, 02:40 »
I definitely appreciate the reply.
In reality, the move would be a no brainer for me, since moving back home is the main reason for me possibly making this switch back to nuclear. Additionally, my earning potential will be a lot higher given a couple yrs in a nuke plant. So its a win win. I also see the nuke industry booming in a few yrs.
But the reality still remains that I have it pretty easy where I am now. Good money, and ZERO headaches.
I am not afraid of the challenge- I welcome it in fact. I just dont like being hounded- especially when I'm doing my job. Make sense?
I can kinda already see that there is lots of competition in the nuke industry. Everyone wants to qualify the fastest so they look the best. I'm really not interested in that kinda thing because it breeds contempt and angers people. I think this aspect will be what I wont like the most.
I am grateful for the experience I got in the navy, but the reality is that the navy pissed me off a lot more than it satisfied me. Leadership is earned- not worn on your sleeve. I am hoping that making this move will not be like joining the navy all over again. I have gotten used to working with REAL people.
One thing I do miss about the navy though, is that I never had doubts as to my reliefs abilities and knowledge.

I guess there are a lot of positives and negatives to switching back to nuclear.....hopefully, I'll get a lot more input from the people on here.

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #3 on: Mar 19, 2006, 03:00 »
The competition to qualify at anything out here in the world is not the same as it was in the Navy.  When you are still in training, that is your job.  You won't be handed a qual card and told to "get hot".  You won't be cleaning bilges or painting the plant either.  Qualifying will not be your highest priority; it will be your only priority.  Basically, you will qualify at the same rate as all the others in your class.
I suppose the reason for the big difference is that -- although you will be trained by plant operators while in the plant -- the training department exists as a separate entity from the operations department.  Your training will be administered by a group of people who are paid to train you.  It is their job, not a collateral duty.

You see the difference?  On a ship, you were assigned to a division that had lots of things to do.  You all had to stand the watches, do the maintenance, clean the place, and train each other.  On land, each of these jobs is done by a separate organization.
« Last Edit: Mar 19, 2006, 05:23 by BeerCourt »
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tommybenson

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #4 on: Mar 19, 2006, 03:23 »
Thanks once again.
I like the way you put things and it makes me more comfortable with the way things work in the commercial world. People in general, can be bastards...fortunately for me, I work with a lot of great people right now and would hate to leave what I have only to be miserable working around people who are only looking out for themselves.

Hopefully, others will add their two cents to the topic.

Offline MLew44

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #5 on: Mar 22, 2006, 05:10 »
I'll tell you one thing. A lot of guys in the nuclear world would kill to get an operating job at a hydro plant. I'm not trying to discourage you -- but you might have forgotten that there are a lot of the hassles that non-nukes don't have to deal with. I'm not sure how the pay compares, so that might be a big factor in your decision. But hopefully it's not the only factor. Also, if you're a control room operator and planning on starting out as a non-licensed field operator at a nuclear plant, the (initial) pay difference can't be too different I wouldn't think. Afterwards, it will take some time before you build the seniority and experience before you can get into a control room license class. But it can be done!

Differences:

You will be hired with a group (most likely), and you all will be required to maintain a certain level of progress. It is true that the process is more controlled; more structured. The plant obviously does not move much and surveillances, work, and other evolutions are scheduled many weeks in advance. For one example, you'll all be required to learn to operate the emergency diesel generators, and during one monthly set of surveillances you'll probably have most of your class all taking turns under instruction. If there happens to be a forced outage or a planned refueling outage during your quals, you'll all be doing certain tasks in a planned, scheduled manner. There is no such thing as having the plant manager come around and trip the unit for operator training; doesn't happen. We try to stay at full power for an entire operating cycle; two years. Naturally, even the experienced people get pretty rusty on doing things that were routine on Navy plants (now, how do I draw a vacuum on the main condensers again??). To balance this, plant procedures are very detailed with some good operating information in them; with a system drawing and a procedure it usually isn't difficult to figure out a task, even if you haven't done it before.

Quals are "task based", which is a difference. You'll remember, in the Navy, the focus of many quals was system based. There is some crossover, but you'll find that the qual cards are mostly filled up with sign-offs on tasks -- perform a waste gas release, swap pumps on the degassifiers, perform a service water pump surveillance -- that type of thing.

Eventually, you'll get fully qualified on all required watchstations. Depending on the location, that will probably be 3 to 5 watchstations, and you'll likely have to qualify peripheral things such as fire brigade member, etc. You'll find yourself standing Conventional watch, and have a coverage area about ten times larger than anything you did in the Navy. At times, it is physical; you'll probably walk 3 or 4 miles on rounds every day you have the watch, and you'll have the watch most every day.

If you're thinking that a commercial nuke is somehow more lax than the Navy, you would be wrong. Many things are scrutinized heavily, and operators must learn to live with that. You got out of the Navy about the same time I did; I felt I had much more freedom to operate independently when I was in the Navy. In a commercial nuke, you will do almost nothing without someone looking over your shoulder -- and then offering criticism afterwards. You'll do pre-job briefs till you're blue in the face and then do post-job briefs, even on the simplest of tasks. That's just the way it is. I'm guessing that in the hydro plant, you start up, shut down, and parallel generators all the time, frequently with little or no supervision. That would never happen in a nuke plant.

I hope I did not focus too much on the negative. Yes, the challenge is definitely here. The career path is here too, especially for an operator. I started as an NLO and am now an SRO. For the most part, I really enjoy coming to work -- because of the challenge, because it is usually interesting, and mostly because I work with outstanding people all around. In whatever you decide, good luck.

tommybenson

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #6 on: Mar 24, 2006, 09:56 »
Thanks for the reply and insight.
Actually I work at a combined cycle plant. 3 gas turbines and one STG..about 900MW total output.
I do have it pretty easy where I am, and I do routine startups and shutdowns with no supervision. I have freedom to do things the way I want to do them (every startup seems to be a little different). For as much as I enjoy those freedoms and levels of relaxation, its also getting pretty boring for me. The "challenge" aspect of my current job has definitely peaked.
It looks like if I get the job, I'll probably get paid slightly less than I do now...but not enough to make a difference. This potential move for me, is every bit about moving my family back home as it is about career enhancement.
I dont mind starting out as NLO and working my way up. From what I read on these forums, some things are the same no matter what type of plant you work at- meaning, you have to put your time in the field if you expect any respect once youre in the control room.
As far as quals go..I dont mind the extra work, and I dont mind always having to be on a schedule...however, as I alluded to earlier, what I DONT want is to have some dickwad hounding me every day about my quals even though I am on or ahead of schedule. I'm a grown man and fully capable of doing the job without the extra "motivation". I had several friends in the navy who had to put up with crap like that (for no apparent reason) it almost cost them their nuke careers.
I dont expect things to be more relaxed than the navy was..however, I DONT expect to be painting things that dont need painting, or taking out trash when theres only a can or two in the damn bag, or scrubbing a bilge to the point that it shines (its a frickin BILGE for crying out loud). Hopefully, I am getting my point across about the things that I DONT expect. And I hope Im correct in assuming that the little navy games wont exist.

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #7 on: Mar 24, 2006, 04:47 »
I don't think it will compare to the Navy. The loss will be the ability to "wing it" that is possible in commercial non-nukes. You better have a procedure (or other configuration control document, like a clearance) in hand when you operate anything at a commercial nuke.

If you can put up with that, then you will do well (and be well compensated). (That's true only because I am assuming everything else you have said as a fact)
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tommybenson

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Navy Nuke Power School....
« Reply #8 on: Mar 25, 2006, 11:50 »
As I have stated in earlier threads, I'm strongly considering moving into the nuke world. I've been out of the navy for 12 yrs now. Nuke MM. Currently a CRO in a 900 MW Combined Cycle Plant.

Anyways, I got through NNPS with a 3.3 average. I wasnt one of those guys who never had to study, but I wasnt forced to sit there for 40 hrs per week either. I did what I had to do and passed. With that said, I dont regret joining the Navy or going to NNPS at all. It got me a ton of great experiences...however, at the same time I wouldnt go back, nor would I wish that place on my worst enemy either.

This brings me to a simple question.....as a former navy nuke, did you consider NNPS tougher than your commercial nuke classes? Or is it tougher being at a commercial nuke? (I ask this speaking strictly from the classroom aspect of things- disregarding all the extra things you had to do to get by at NNPS).

I ask this because as I think back, I have definitely forgotten a LOT of stuff. I was flipping through a power plant engineering book and it amazed me how much of that stuff was familiar to me, yet I have forgotten. Most of it because I never had to use any of it again, and some of it because I never really figured out why it was important that I knew it in the first place. How much (if any) of my NNPS schooling will I be required to remember? Or will everything be taught over again?

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Re: Navy Nuke Power School....
« Reply #9 on: Mar 25, 2006, 01:00 »
You know, most NLO's do not come out of the Navy.  A lot of them are hired right off the street.  Well, not quite.  They have to pass a few tests to be considered, and many come from conventional power plants.  But, the fact is that most of them, however smart they may be, have NO prior nuclear training.
Given your background as a Navy Nuke, in addition to your experience on the fossil plants, I don't think you have anything to worry about.  You are one of the very few who has done both.
These plants are not like the Navy ones.  You'll find that running one is a lot more like what you are doing now than you probably realize.
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tommybenson

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Re: Navy Nuke Power School....
« Reply #10 on: Mar 25, 2006, 02:48 »
Thanks for the words.

Its not so much worry or fear on my part...but I mostly just want the facts on what to expect. I would like as few surprises as possible.
The factors going inot my decision are kinda like this. I have it very easy where I am now, I can stay here for the next 25 yrs and make a decent living with no worries. If I move to a nuke plant, my earnig potential is much greater, but I'll definitely work a lot harder to get that check. Basically, I'm admitting what most others are afraid to admit- that we ALL want to earn more and do less. This is in no way saying that I dont want to work. In fact, I'm becoming bored on my present job and welcome the additional challenges. The fact still remains that it will be a big change going from the control room to being an aux operator every day. I dont mind that at all- as long as there arent any extra surprises that go with it that I wasnt expecting...you know, the little "navy games". If theres work to be done, then lets get on it. I'm not the type to create work just to appear busy to please others. See what I'm saying?
The other MAJOR factor in my decision is that I have a strong desire to move my family back home. For that reason there are only two nuke plants that I would even consider. Its one or the other or none at all. This is probably my strongest motivation to move into the nuke world.
I have a buddy who works at VC Summers (he used to be a CRO with me on my current job) and I have been talking to him a lot to see if theres any regrets and just to see how things are going and asking the same questions that I am asking you guys. I'm getting mostly the same answers from everyone and its definitely settling my nerves. I like most of what I'm hearing.

If most NLOs dont come from the Navy, then where do most of the ex navy guys go? Do they typically get different positions? Seems like a lot of people on here like to knock navy reactors and call them "tinker toys". If thats true, then it would seem that whether youre navy or not, you start at the bottom. No?

Heres another question....I was told that in my interview that it typically takes up to 8 yrs to be considered for RO school. Is this typical industry wide? Or does it go in cycles? My buddy says he could be there in 3.5 yrs. This seems like a huge difference to me and I would think that MOST commercial plants are very similar in their training and career paths. Can you (or anyone) explain this?

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #11 on: Mar 25, 2006, 04:07 »
RO is definitely in cycles. I have seen 10 years (with a stellar record) in some plants, and not  finished NLO training as the other extreme.


P.S. I have merged these two topics because the issues really become one.
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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #12 on: Mar 25, 2006, 06:13 »
Where do most ex-navy guys go?   Hmmmm.  That's a good question.  I was in the navy for 8 yrs, and served on 3 fast boats.  In the 19 years since I got out, I have run into only a handful of people who served with me - starting in NPS.  One is an NLO at Millstone, one former RO is a road HP.  The rest are ex-ELT's who are now HP's - probably two or three of them.  One former ELT from my first boat was an HP supervisor in NY, but I hear he went to law school on the company dime and left the biz.  Out of the 180 - 200 nukes I served with, and the other 80-100 I went to NPS and prototype with, I have encountered fewer than 10 in civilian life.
Figure that there are about 100 commercial nuke plants in the US.  If each had 100 operators (I know it's more like 50), that would be 10000.  That is considerably fewer than the number of Navy nukes who got out over the past 25 years.
I'm guessing that a lot of Navy nukes either stay in forever, or get out of nuclear altogether.
« Last Edit: Mar 25, 2006, 10:33 by BeerCourt »
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tommybenson

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #13 on: Mar 25, 2006, 08:14 »
Interesting. In a lot of ways I dont blame them. Prolly the same reason I didnt make a real strong effort to continue in nukes when I got out.

However, I'd say that if you have the ability to do that job, there probably arent a lot of careers out there quite as rewarding financially (if you dont have a degree). Probably most think the money just isnt worth it and they assume commercial nuke is more of the same?

The reality is that I'm grateful for my navy education and training...but I disliked more about the navy than I liked. I simply felt like I was treated as a child and not a grown man. I mean really......dont personal inspections seem kinda, well...I wont say it..lol. Theyre probably necessary for some people who are just slobs, but I dont think I should have to make THAT strong an effort to ensure my dungarees are in ship shape or that my face is smooth as a babys bottom so some guy can give me elevator eyes...lol. That might be a bit exaggerating, but I think I make my point.

Anyways, I definitely appreciate the insight. Keep it coming....but I think my decision is made should the offer come. WHeres my PRO NUKE T shirt??

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #14 on: Mar 25, 2006, 09:27 »
Tommy

The difference in time to license depends on several factors one of which is you as an individual and the bigger part is union vs. non-union plants.  I got out of the navy in 94 after 6 years in and hired on as an nlo at my first plant and was fully qualified after 1 year.  I was sitting in an RO license class at my three year point and again sitting in an SRO class at my 7 year point.  I've been to lots of other nuclear plants either benchmarking or peer visits and found that most of them are unionized and the progression is much slower (Anywhere from 7-15 years for promotion to RO).  I've been out of the navy for 12 years now and have obtained an SRO license at both a BWR and PWR.  If I would have went to a union plant I might still be an nlo (which isn't bad).  NLO is a very good job.

As far as where do navy nukes go question...  I've found that there are a lot of ex-navy nukes in  in-house positions for HP, electrical maintenance, mechanical maintenance and I&C as well as operations.  I've also found each plant has a personallity that's very different based on hiring practices they adopted years ago.  There are plants loaded with navy nukes because they actively seek them out.  There are others that have Associate Degree programs at their local community college and hire from their graduate pool.  There are others that load up with engineers and others that have their own version of STA-21 (Seaman to Admiral) program and it's called the floor sweeper to plant manager program.

tommybenson

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #15 on: Mar 25, 2006, 09:47 »
Its a non unioin plant that I am awaiting word from. They said it would be up to three weeks till I heard one way or another and the upcoming week will be week three.
Before the interview process started, I got an email from someone at the plant with some info on it and there were 18 people on the mailing list. I believe they will hire 10 people. The interview went really well, and I was told in the interview that my background was one of the better ones seen in a while. Additionally, just as I was leaving, my escort to the gate yelled to me (my back was turned to him walking away)..I turned around and he simply said "excellent interview" and turned and walked away. So, I'm feelin pretty good about it.
I was kinda hoping to hear from them earleir though because theres a lot I need to get done around the house if I have to sell it. I'd rather not have my wife doing everything while she stays behind till school ends. Anyways, I'll keep my fingers crossed.

Again, thanks for all the info supplied. This is a great forum and it is well run IMO. I have learned a lot over the last two weeks or so on here.
 

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Re: Commercial Nuke Questions...
« Reply #16 on: Apr 13, 2006, 08:48 »
Here's a little update.  I started about 10 days ago working an outage at a combined-cycle cogen plant.  There is not a reactor within 40 miles of here, but there are 3 ex-Navy nukes working at the plant.  Counting one of the night shift engineers and myself, that makes 5 of us here working at a non-nuclear power plant.
Considering that there are around a hundred times as many non-nukes in the US as nukes, I guess that there are probably an awful lot of us working at them.
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