By Martha Jette
Feb. 6, 2014
The Navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Training Course (NNPTC) was under the direction of Admiral Kirkland H. Donald. Admiral Donald assumed his duties as Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, on 5 November 2004. The appointment as Director is both a military and civilian position as it is the head of both Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program (Department of the Navy) and Naval Reactors (Department of Energy). See Naval Reactors for more information. Admiral Donald was relieved as Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion by Admiral John M. Richardson, on 3 November, 2012.
So intensive and difficult that graduates represent only about three percent of Navy personnel. Of the Sailors accepted into the program, an attrition rate of about 50% is common. According to Charles Knitter, In 2002, when he went through the program, that was the case. The school lost about 50% of it’s students from the beginning of the training pipeline through to the end. Not all of those were academic. He would estimate that it was an even split between personnel issues, academic issues and being picked up for officer programs.
Operating in Goose Creek, South Carolina, this technical school prepares sailors, officers and even civilians to perform power plant operations and maintenance on the Navy’s nuclear powered ships and submarines. These include 71 submarines, 10 aircraft carriers, and 4 training and research “prototype plants.”
Prototype plants are located at the former Naval Weapons Station Charleston, which has “two decommissioned submarines: ex-Daniel Webster (MTS-626) and ex-Sam Rayburn (MTS-635).” The missile compartments of these moored ships have been removed but their S5W reactor power plants are still fully operational. For safety reasons, these ships have “diesel-powered Supplemental Water Injection Systems (SWIS)” so cooling water is available in case of any accident. There are also four reactor prototypes at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in Ballston Spa, New York.
The program aims to ensure that all of the Navy’s nuclear propulsion plants are run in a safe and reliable manner. To do so, this course provides training in several areas to teach participants how to “design, build, operate, maintain and manage the nuclear-powered ships,” as well as other supporting facilities.
All students are required to take mathematics, nuclear physics, nuclear reactor technology, electrical power theory (including generating equipment) thermodynamics, material science (and metallurgy), chemistry, health physics, reactor principles and reactor ethics. This rigorous training program is even more so for those taking the “officer course.” It includes “extensive post-calculus mathematical examination of reactor dynamics.”
All students spend about 45 hours each week in the classroom and anywhere from 10 to 35 hours studying, which must be done on site.
Anyone wishing to take this program needs to have a “qualifying score on the ASVAB exam, might be required to pass a general science exam, and “must undergo a NACLC investigation for attaining a ‘Secret’ security clearance.”
Potential student officers must have “college-level” courses in general calculus and “calculus-based physics.” They are also required to attend interviews at Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C. Final approval will come from the Naval Nuclear Propulsion director.
By Martha Jette ~ According to an Associated Press report, this investigation involves about 30 sailors. With about 150 instructors at the South Carolina school, training will suffer, as these suspected cheaters have been at least temporarily suspended.
Continue reading →