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Navy Nuclear Power Program

Updated: September 13, 2017

Members of the Navy Nuclear Power Program (NF) receive an excellent education via extensive classroom, on-the-job training, and practical application and qualification process that is second to none in the armed forces. Navy “Nukes” become propulsion plant operators for both the nuclear submarine and nuclear surface ship operational and support programs.

Basically, to qualify for the NF program, you must meet regular enlistment eligibility plus have a “traditional” state-accredited high school diploma, have successfully completed one year of high school or college level algebra, and pass an additional academic review that may be required. You must be a United States citizen and be younger than 25 years of age by your shipping date to recruiting training. You must also meet the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)/Navy Advanced Program testing requirements.┬áPrior drug usage and police involvement, where not necessarily disqualifying, will make entering the program difficult – see your Recruiter, as some things can be waived for outstanding candidates.

Once your time in the Delayed Entry Program is completed and you graduate boot-camp, you will immediately start the NF pipeline, moving from one phase of training to the next, without undue delay. The normal training cycle is:

  1. Recruit Training (Great Lakes, IL).
  2. Nuclear Power School (NPS) in Charleston, SC, where they learn theory and practical application of nuclear physics and reactor engineering. Following NPS, candidates begin prototype training in their rating specialty at one of two Nuclear Power Training Units (NPTUs). After nuclear power training, NF Sailors are designated nuclear propulsion plant operators. They may be assigned to modern nuclear powered aircraft carriers or volunteer for submarine service (men only).
    MACHINIST’S MATE NUCLEAR FIELD “A” SCHOOL – This course provides basic knowledge of technical mathematics and a basic understanding of the theory and operation of a steam power plant. Students learn to operate tools, test equipment, and system components; read blueprints; practice rigging techniques; and perform maintenance procedures such as packing a valve or aligning a pump coupling.
    ELECTRICIAN’S MATE NUCLEAR FIELD “A” SCHOOL – This course provides basic knowledge of technical mathematics and a basic understanding of power distribution. Students solve basic equations using phasors, vector notations and basic trigonometry and analyze DC and AC circuits. Students demonstrate working knowledge of DC and AC motors and generators. Students learn to operate electrical equipment using controllers, and to properly test, maintain, troubleshoot, and repair electrical circuits, motors, cables, circuit breakers, and other related electrical equipment for power distribution.
    ELECTRONICS TECHNICIAN NUCLEAR FIELD “A” SCHOOL – This course provides basic knowledge of technical mathematics and a good working knowledge of electricity and electronics, solid state devices, digital logic and systems, microprocessors, and instrumentation and control circuits. Students learn to interpret schematic diagrams and use appropriate test equipment to isolate and correct faults in electronic systems.
  3. Basic Nuclear Power Course at Nuclear Power School (Charleston, SC). This course provides a comprehensive understanding of a pressurized-water Naval nuclear power plant, including reactor core nuclear principles, heat transfer and fluid systems, plant chemistry and materials, mechanical and electrical systems, and radiological control.
  4. Nuclear Propulsion Plant Operator Course at Nuclear Power Training Unit (Ballston Spa, NY or Charleston, SC). This course provides knowledge of the fundamentals of a Naval nuclear power plant and the interrelationship of its mechanical, electrical, and reactor subsystems. Students develop oral communications skills. Students understand the physical nature of nuclear radiation, its detection, interaction with matter and human health consequences, and gain knowledge of the safe operation of a complex Naval nuclear power plant and its sophisticated subsystems with an emphasis on basic industrial safety principles. Students learn to identify, troubleshoot, and correct problems in nuclear mechanical, electrical, or reactor control systems at the component level with an emphasis on reactor systems, and apply earlier technical classroom knowledge gained to the practical safe operation of Naval nuclear power plants. Officers are given the broadest understanding of the plant subsystems, and are taught command skills to effectively lead the watch team in the safe operation of a Naval nuclear power plant. Selected graduates of mechanical operator training are given additional training as Engineering Laboratory Technicians (ELT) or Propulsion Plant Operator Welders.
  5. Duty Assignment. After prototype training, nuclear propulsion plant operators are assigned to duty per the needs of the Navy.

You will enter the Navy as an E-3 and be automatically promoted to E-4 (Third Class Petty Officer) at the completion of your “A” school phase. Promotion to E-4 requires you sign an enlistment extension – the NF program is a six year obligation basically broken down as; four years of a basic enlistment PLUS one year extension for the amount of schooling and a sixth year for the promotion to E-4 (hope that makes sense). Navy Nukes also receive special duty assignment pay which can range from $150 to $450 a month, proficiency pay up to $150 a month and not to mention sea pay while stationed on a sea going command (plus submarine pay if you decide to go on boats that sink on purpose). My little pay snapshot does not include housing and allowance for subsistence which you may also be eligible for.

Nuclear Navy Occupational Specialty (NOS) Code descriptions

Electronics Technicians (Nuclear); Surface, NOS D111; Submarine, NOS D110.
Nuke ETs operate and maintain Naval Nuclear propulsion plants and associated equipment. They supervise and administer Naval Nuclear propulsion plant operations, and thoroughly understand reactor, electrical, and mechanical theory involved in the operation of the nuclear reactor, steam plant, propulsion plant, and auxiliary equipment. They posses a detailed knowledge of reactor and steam plant chemistry and radiological controls, and operate and perform organizational and intermediate maintenance on electronic equipment used for reactor control, instrumentation, measurement, alarm warning, power distribution, protection and airborne particulate radiation detection. The Nuke ETs operate General Purpose Test Equipment (GEPTE) and auxiliary equipment. They test, calibrate, maintain, and repair electronic and hydraulic-electric systems that support reactor plant operation on both surface and sub surface ships.
Machinist’s Mates (Nuclear); Surface, NOS D131; Submarine, NOS D130.
Nuke MMs operate and maintain Naval Nuclear propulsion plants and associated equipment. They supervise and administer naval nuclear propulsion plant operations, and thoroughly understand reactor, electrical, and mechanical theory involved in the operation of the nuclear reactor, steam plant, propulsion plant, and auxiliary equipment. They posses a detailed knowledge of reactor and steam plant chemistry and radiological controls. Nuke MMs operate, maintain, and repair (organizational and intermediate level) ship propulsion machinery, auxiliary equipment, and outside machinery, such as: air compressors, distilling plants, propulsion turbines, electric power generation turbines, shaft line components, and air conditioning equipment. Nuke MMs operate and maintain propulsion plant systems (organizational and intermediate level) such as feed and condensate, steam, hydraulic, seawater systems, air, potable water, lubricating oil and oil purification, reactor auxiliary and support systems, pumps, valves, and heat exchangers. They perform tests, transfers, and inventory of lubricating oils, fuels, and water, and generate and stow industrial gases on both surface and sub-surface ships.
Electrician’s Mate (Nuclear); Surface, NOS D101; Submarine, NOS D100.
Nuke EMs operate and maintain Naval Nuclear propulsion plants and associated equipment. They supervise and administer Naval Nuclear propulsion plant operations, and thoroughly understand reactor, electrical, and mechanical theory involved in the operation of the nuclear reactor, steam plant, propulsion plant, and auxiliary equipment. They posses a detailed knowledge of reactor and steam plant chemistry and radiological controls. Nuke EMs stand watch on generators, switchboards, control equipment, and electrical equipment, and they operate and perform organizational and intermediate maintenance on power and lighting circuits, electrical fixtures, motors, generators, voltage and frequency regulators, controllers, distribution switchboards and other electrical equipment; test for short circuits and grounds; and rebuild electrical equipment, including solid state circuitry elements.

Career Sea – Shore Rotation Chart

Sea (SEA) Shore (SHR) Rotation
Rating SEA1 SEA2 SEA3 SEA4 SEA/SHR
NJSI* 48 40 40 40 36/36
JSI* 40 40 40 40
SHR1 SHR2 SHR3 SHR4
NJSI* 36 36 36 36
JSI* 30 36 36 36
Sea/Shore Flow per NAVADMIN 284/15 released 101615Z DEC 15

*JSI = Junior Staff Instructor; NJSI = Non-Junior Staff Instructor

Sea tours and shore tours for Sailors that have completed four sea tours will be 36 months at sea followed by 36 ashore until retirement.

Sailors in nuclear power trained communities will have a 54-month first sea tour and 60-month second sea tour. Sailors who advance to Chief Petty Officer before or during their second sea tour may have their second sea tour length adjusted to 48 months.

With the lure of well paying jobs beckoning those with Navy nuclear power training, you can image that keeping the rating manned up can be a challenge. The Navy, in order to entice Sailors to stay in past their initial enlistment, normally provides a reenlistment bonus to stay a Navy Nuke. Got what it takes?



83 Responses to “Navy Nuclear Power Program”


  1. Michael says:

    My son (EM) just started his last class in A school. So he’ll be graduating next month as an EM3. He quite happy, studying his ass off, and looking forward to a Navy future. He’s 24 yrs. old and has a college degree. He has 2 opportunities while he’s at NPT to apply for OCS. That somewhat will define his future, but meanwhile he’s content with the challenges that A school presents. To answer your question about EM I believe that it offers more opportunities than the other ratings.

  2. Troy says:

    Graduated from nuke school in 1965, served as ET/RO on SSBN636 and instructor at S5G, discharged and attended LSU in 1972, obtaining a BSEE degree in 1975, and retired from a rewarding career in 2006. I credit my nuke training and experience prepared me for university and career. I recommend the Navy nuke program, but I don’t recommend the nuke industry.

  3. Jessica says:

    I am shipping as a nuke next month and I was told by my recruiter that my husband and I will be able to live together during A school and power school in Charleston. Does anyone know if this is actually true? And if not when we’d be able to live together?

  4. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Jessica,

    Yes, your recruiter is right because Nuke A school and power school combined is greater than the minimum time required. The MILPERSMAN allows for the PCS move when a school is 20 weeks or longer in duration.

  5. Mariah says:

    I’m a junior in high school and have plans to graduate a semester early so I’ll be finished this coming December. I took my PiCAT yesterday and got a 95 and auto qualified for nuke. As I have a brother and sister in the Marines, the Marine recruiter is a family friend and has been trying to convince me to go Marines. He told me I have very little chance of getting in the program. I know my next step is t go to MEPS and take the confirmation test but I was wondering what my actual chances of getting into the program are. I have never gotten below an A in an math or science class and really want to be an ET.

  6. NCCM(Ret) says:

    Mariah,

    There is no reason you should not be able to enlist into the nuclear power program as long as you are otherwise fully qualified.

    Just a note, you will not require a Confirmation test — after the PiCAT, you take a Verification test; two different things.

  7. Barry [Last name redacted for privacy] says:

    Hello everyone, I was an ETN2 NEC 3383 Class 73-6 Mare Island, NPTU Idaho, A1W/A4W, USS Truxtun CGN35. Potential Sailor beware. What no one has said is that by far, the “A” schools, NPS and prototype may be the easiest part of your enlistment. Maybe it has changed in 40+ years… Stateside, if the rest of the ship (non nucs) were in 6 section duty, nucs were 3 section duty. At sea, it was common for some watches to be standing port and starboard (6 hours on 6 hours off). If your “off watch” hours were during normal working hours, then you’d be doing maintenance,field day, qualifying or other work – no rack time. You could count on working a minimum of 12 hours a day every single day, with 14 to 20 hour days not uncommon. Fatigue was always a factor – I never understood how sailors managed the lack of sleep. There are some reasons why this was necessary. 1) Whatever your rate, in addition to whatever watch you were qualified to stand and may have been standing, you had to qualify for the next watch for your rate and so on. 2) Nuc ships are steam driven and more manpower intensive. The Truxtun was a nuclear version of the Belknap class cruiser (CG). As such, it required twice as many watch standers in the two enginerooms as the Belknap class required in it’s two firerooms & two enginerooms. 3) Although there was adequate reliability in the older, discrete analog electronic technology, for safety reasons additional watches were assigned at certain areas to maintain equipment oversight. This led to a shortage of qualified personnel to stand watches at any particular watch at any particular time. 4) Factor in new personnel, terminations of enlistments (aka parole) and sailors on leave. Just go into this with your eyes open. There are always negatives to go with the positives.

  8. ETCM(SW) Tosten says:

    The Nuclear Power Navy offers the BEST training available, hands down!! Slackers need not apply. Whether you decide to stay for a career or not, if you apply yourself, you will absolutely receive the best training that you possibly could. I would hire any nuclear power grad without a question. Navy tested is good enough for me!!

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