Written by Thomas Goering, NCCM USN(RET)
Published: November 14, 2008
Updated: March 11, 2020
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 recruit training. You must also meet the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB)/Navy Advanced Program testing requirements. Prior 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:
- Recruit Training (Great Lakes, IL).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 seagoing 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 subsurface 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
|NJSI Sea/Shore Flow per NAVADMIN 190/16, dated August 25, 2016; JSI Sea/ Shore Flow per NAVADMIN 157/19, dated July 15, 2019.|
*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?