With all the justifiable excitement about the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's granting licenses to Southern Company to build two 1,100-MW Westinghouse AP1000 nuclear reactors, it also is worth noting the progress the utility is making to train operators to run the new plants.
In March, the Institute for Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) granted initial accreditation of the Vogtle-3 & -4 operators training program. This enables reactor operator candidates to apply for NRC licenses to operate the new AP1000 units.
Steven Kuczynski, president and chief executive officer of Southern Nuclear, wrote in an e-mail message to all employees that it is a "very significant and positive achievement for the project."
He added that the milestone was achieved 18 months prior to the first docketed operator exam and four years ahead of the first fuel load at Unit 3.
ANS Nuclear Cafe talked with Southern Nuclear's Katherine Melvin in the public affairs office about the training program. Here is the interview:
What is the significance of the certification?
The accreditation allows the station to train operators in an NRC-approved training program [accredited by the National Nuclear Accrediting Board]. This facilitates industry best training practices, and the station has the flexibility to continuously improve performance (instead of training operators to meet NRC inspection criteria only).
What did Southern Nuclear have to do to earn it?
Southern Nuclear hired instructors for the operations training programs up to three years prior to accreditation so they could work with the plant vendor to train the instructors. We also:
- Built a training facility
- Installed two simulators in the building
- Implemented procedures to support training and qualification of operators
- Hired operator candidates and initiated training
- Produced plans for the next five years to ensure a sufficient number of operators for two plants
- Staffed operations management to provide support and oversight
- Implemented an entire training organization.
A year prior to the board review, a comprehensive self-assessment using industry peers was conducted to check readiness for an accreditation team visit. An accreditation team assessed the ability of the station to train operators in the fall of last year, and then an accreditation board reviewed the accreditation team report along with an Initial Accreditation Utility Report written by Southern Nuclear. The accreditation board asked questions of executives and staff and reviewed documentation to grant accreditation.
Who will be trained at Southern Nuclear in the certified program?
Operators in all six programs:
- Non-licensed operators
- Reactor operators
- Senior reactor operators
- Licensed operators
- Shift technical advisers
- Shift managers
What will they be able to do as a result of the training?
The operators will safely and efficiently run the plant. Licensed operators will operate or supervise the operation of the controls of the reactor.