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Nuclear equipment operation technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear energy production.

Nuclear Equipment Operation Technician Jobs and Green Career Profile

Those with nuclear equipment operation technician jobs assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear energy production. They operate special equipment used in these activities and monitor the levels of radiation that are produced. The most important part of their job is to follow nuclear equipment operational policies and procedures that ensure environmental safety.

Unlike fossil fuel plants, which spew tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, nuclear power plants don’t produce smoke. Electricity is created by splitting atoms in a series of nuclear reactions, otherwise known as nuclear fission. Nuclear power is considered carbon-free and produces more electricity than other other type of energy like solar and wind. However, nuclear power is less clean before and after generating electricity. Nuclear power requires uranium, which must be mined and transported to power plants. There is also the significant issue of radioactive waste, which isn’t biodegradable and is dangerous.

Understanding Nuclear Equipment Operation Technician Jobs

Understanding Nuclear Equipment Operation Technicians JobsNuclear equipment operation technicians’ main duty is to monitor instruments, gauges, and recording devices in control rooms during operation of equipment, under direction of nuclear scientists and experimenters. They modify, devise, and maintain equipment used in operations. They perform testing, maintenance, repair, or upgrading of accelerator systems according to safe and established procedures. Those with nuclear equipment operation technician jobs must follow policies and procedures for radiation workers to ensure personnel safety. They warn maintenance workers of radiation hazards and direct workers to vacate hazardous areas.

As part of their job, nuclear equipment operation technicians calculate equipment-operating factors, such as radiation times, dosages, temperatures, gamma intensities, or pressures, using standard formulas and conversion tables. They then submit computations to supervisors for review. Nuclear equipment operation technicians set control panel switches, according to standard procedures, to route electric power from sources and direct particle beams through injector units. They adjust controls of equipment to control particle beam movement, pulse rates, energy or intensity, or radiation, according to specifications. They also communicate with accelerator maintenance personnel to ensure readiness of support systems, such as vacuum, water-cooling, or radio frequency power sources.

As part of their green job functionality, nuclear equipment operation technicians need to collect air, water, gas or solid samples for testing to determine radioactivity levels or to ensure appropriate radioactive containment. They decontaminate objects by cleaning them using soap or solvents or by abrading using brushes, buffing machines, or sandblasting machines. Nuclear equipment operation technicians identify and implement appropriate decontamination procedures, based on equipment and the size, nature, and type of contamination. They monitor nuclear reactor equipment performance to identify operational inefficiencies, hazards, or needs for maintenance or repair. They also prepare reports to communicate information such as contamination test results, decontamination results, or decontamination procedures.

Nuclear Equipment Operation Technicians Job Summary

  • Nuclear equipment operation technicians assist physicists, engineers, and other professionals in nuclear research and nuclear production. They operate special equipment used in these activities and monitor the levels of radiation that are produced.
  • Nuclear equipment operation technicians’ job outlook is projected to growth between 15% and 21% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average average for all green jobs.
  • Nuclear equipment operation technicians’ jobs are expected to have 4,100 new jobs filled by 2022.

Work Environment for Nuclear equipment operation technicians

Nuclear equipment operation technicians usually work in offices and control rooms where they use computers and other equipment to monitor and help operate nuclear reactors. Nuclear equipment operation technicians also need to measure radiation levels on-site, requiring them to visit several areas in and around the plant throughout the workday. This may require them to sometimes work outside, regardless of weather conditions. Working around nuclear reactors may involve exposure to high temperatures. Nuclear equipment operation technicians who conduct scientific tests for scientists and engineers typically work in laboratories.

Nuclear equipment operation technicians must take precautions when working with or around nuclear materials. They often have to wear protective gear and film badges that indicate if they have been exposed to radiation. Protective gear may include hard hats, hearing and eye protection, plastic suits, and respirators. Most nuclear equipment operation technicians work full time. In power plants, which operate 24 hours a day, nuclear equipment operation technicians may work variable schedules that include nights, holidays, and weekends. Occasionally plants stop operations for maintenance and upgrades which require them to work overtime during these periods. In laboratories, nuclear equipment operation technicians typically work during normal business hours.

Nuclear equipment operation technicians Education, Training and Licensing

To enter a green job as a nuclear equipment operation technicians, it is usually required an associate’s degree in nuclear science or a nuclear-related technology. Many community colleges and technical institutes offer associate’s degree programs in nuclear science, nuclear technology, or related fields. They study nuclear energy, radiation, and the equipment and components used in nuclear power plants and laboratories. Other coursework includes mathematics, physics, and chemistry. Nuclear equipment operation technicians may also enter the job after gaining equivalent experience in the Armed Forces, specifically the U.S. Navy. For safety and security reasons, nuclear equipment operation technicians usually must undergo a background check and receive some type of security clearance after they are hired.

Nuclear equipment operation technicians also go through extensive on-the-job training. In nuclear power plants, they start out as trainees under the supervision of more experienced technicians. During their training, they are taught the proper ways to use operating and monitoring equipment. They are also instructed on safety procedures, regulations, and plant policies. Workers who do not have the appropriate associate’s degree or its equivalent usually have a significant period of on-site classroom training provided by their employer before they begin full duties and a normal training schedule. Training varies with the technician’s previous experience and education. Most training programs last between 6 months and 2 years. Nuclear technicians go through additional training and education throughout their careers to keep up with advances in nuclear science and technology.

Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates a bright outlook for nuclear equipment operation technicians and expects the employment in this field to grow between 15% and 21% from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all green jobs. The BLS projected 4,100 nuclear equipment operation technician new openings between 2012 and 2022, and noted 8,000 jobs are currently filled. Titles include Nuclear Equipment Operator (NEO), Nuclear Auxiliary Operator, Equipment Operator, Nuclear Plant Equipment Operator, Non-Licensed Nuclear Equipment Operator (NLO), Non-Licensed Operator (NLO), Operations Technician, Licensed Nuclear Operator, Non-Licensed Nuclear Plant Operator (NLO), and Nuclear Operations Specialist. The BLS further reports that the median annual wage for salaried nuclear equipment operation technicians was $72,610 in 2012 with median hourly wage of $34.91. Across the US job market, he lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,270, and the top 10 percent earned more than $97,300. Nuclear equipment operation technicians can receive the best compensation in Tennessee, where they earn compensation, on average, of about $82780. People in this job function are compensated at the highest average salary in Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services, where they get average pay levels of $74,470.

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