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Nuclear Power Plant Operator  What They Do

Just the Facts


Controls nuclear reactors.

This career is part of the Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources cluster Power, Structural and Technical Systems pathway.


A person in this career:

  • Operates nuclear power reactors in accordance with policies and procedures to protect workers from radiation and to ensure environmental safety.
  • Adjusts controls to position rod and to regulate flux level, reactor period, coolant temperature, or rate of power flow, following standard procedures.
  • Develops or implements actions such as lockouts, tagouts, or clearances to allow equipment to be safely repaired.
  • Responds to system or unit abnormalities, diagnosing the cause, and recommending or taking corrective action.
  • Monitors all systems for normal running conditions, performing activities such as checking gauges to assess output or the effects of generator loading on other equipment.
  • Monitors or operates boilers, turbines, wells, or auxiliary power plant equipment.
  • Implements operational procedures, such as those controlling start-up or shut-down activities.
  • Records operating data, such as the results of surveillance tests.
  • Notes malfunctions of equipment, instruments, or controls and reports these conditions to supervisors.
  • Participates in nuclear fuel element handling activities, such as preparation, transfer, loading, or unloading.

Working Conditions and Physical Demands

People who do this job report that:

  • You would often handle loads up to 20 lbs., sometimes up to 50 lbs. You might do a lot of lifting, carrying, pushing or pulling.
  • Work in this occupation involves use of protective items such as safety shoes, glasses, gloves, hearing protection, a hard hat, or personal flotation devices
  • Work in this occupation involves using your hands to hold, control, and feel objects more than one-third of the time
  • Work in this occupation requires being inside most of the time
  • Sound and noise levels are loud and distracting
  • Exposed to radiation more than once a month
  • Work in this occupation involves sitting more than one-third of the time

Working in this career involves (physical activities):

  • Picking out a particular sound in the presence of other sounds
  • Identifying color and seeing differences in color, including shades and brightness
  • Seeing clearly at a distance
  • Detecting sounds and hearing the differences between sounds of different pitch and loudness
  • Seeing clearly up close
  • Speaking clearly enough to be able to be understood by others
  • Identifying and understanding the speech of another person

Work Hours and Travel

  • Rotating shift work
  • Weekend work

Specialty and Similar Careers

Careers that are more detailed or close to this career:

  • Licensed Reactor Operator --
  • Nuclear Control Operator --
  • Nuclear Control Room Operator --
  • Nuclear Plant Operator (NPO) --
  • Nuclear Power Reactor Operator --
  • Nuclear Reactor Operator --
  • Nuclear Station Operator (NSO) --
  • Nuclear Supervising Operator (NSO) --
  • Nuclear Unit Operator --
  • Reactor Operator (RO) --