First Vogtle operators licensed

18 October 2016

The first nuclear operators for Vogtle units 3 and 4 have passed their initial US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing examination. The examination is the culmination of nearly four years of training for the operators.

Vogtle's control room simulator plays a major role in operator training (Image: Georgia Power)

When operational, the two Westinghouse AP1000 reactors currently under construction in Georgia will employ about 75 nuclear operators as part of a permanent workforce of over 800. Licensed and qualified operators need to be in place even before nuclear fuel is loaded.

The three-week testing process included simulator testing, job performance measures and a written examination. The operators now must complete an additional six months of pre-operational testing before receiving their licences.

Georgia Power has requested a ten-day extension to negotiations with the Georgia Public Service Commission (PSC) on a settlement over cost overruns at the Vogtle project, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The PSC is scheduled to vote on the company's request today.

Karen Fili, Georgia Power's site vice president for Vogtle 3 and 4, said the class had spent "countless hours in the classroom and simulator" during their four years of preparation and training. "This team will help bring the new units online for the first time and will be well-prepared to help ensure safe and reliable operation for as long as the units are in service," she said.

The NRC licenses all individuals who either operate or supervise the operation of the controls of a commercially owned nuclear power reactor or a test/research reactor in the USA. According to the NRC, there were about 4600 NRC-licensed reactor operators in the USA as of July 2015. For operators of new nuclear reactors, applicants must complete extensive training and pass rigorous examinations. Once licensed, they must comply with NRC requirements to maintain and renew their licences. "Cold" licence examinations are administered by the NRC before the completion of pre-operational and initial start-up testing at new reactors.

Construction began on the two Vogtle units in 2013. Vogtle 3 is expected to enter service in June 2019, with unit 4 following in June 2020. Two AP1000s are also under construction at VC Summer in South Carolina, and are also expected to start up in 2019 and 2020. The first two of four AP1000 units under construction in China - Sanmen 1 and Haiyang 1 - are expected to begin operations before the end of 2016.

Georgia Power is a Southern Company subsidiary. 

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News