Engineering in Nuclear Power Plants
The typical nuclear power plant hires engineers from most disciplines. Engineers often work in the system engineering, design/construction/modification, operations, maintenance, radiation protection, chemistry, quality assurance and information technology groups.
These engineers manage the 2 to 7 systems at the nuclear
plant. They monitor the system performance, identify problems and solutions, identify maintenance to be done with procedures, identify
testing to be done with procedures. Usually these engineers have background in
mechanical, electrical, chemical, or nuclear engineering. They must have good knowledge
of the nuclear regulatory requirements as well as the industry codes and
standards. They may be responsible for the system operating procedures. System
engineers are part of the plant staff.
Systems in a nuclear plant, by discipline, are:
Mechanical and/or Chemical and/or Health Physics
The engineers are responsible for the various plant programs. These programs may be, but are not always, required by regulation. Program engineers are usually mechanical, electrical, chemical, or nuclear engineers or they may have specialty expertise.
Examples of such programs are:
Licensing engineers deal with license related activities for the specific plant. These engineers provide the interface with the headquarters and regional Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Such activities include:
Licensing engineers usually have nuclear engineering background.
These engineers are responsible for the design of modifications to the plant. Modifications may include new systems, system improvements, or replacement of obsolete or unreliable equipment. Modifications are usually on a project basis with design, construct, install, test, and turnover phases. Such projects are usually budgeted as capital projects, not under operations and maintenance budgets.
In addition to the system engineering disciplines noted above, engineers with specialty knowledge in civil and structural engineering may be used. A select group of the design/construction/modification department are permanent members of the plant staff, however, additional engineers are usually hired on a contract basis to handle specialty and high demand projects.
Operations engineers may be assigned as part of an operating shift or supervision. Those assigned to supervise manipulation of the reactor controls must qualify by passing NRC written, oral, and simulator examinations to obtain a NRC Senior Operator License. Engineers may also be assigned as Shift Technical Advisors to provide advice in the event of accident or transient at the plant. Engineers may come from any of the disciplines noted above.
Maintenance Engineers may develop procedures for performing maintenance at a plant. In some cases, engineers with extensive experience in engineering and maintenance may supervise maintenance departments.
Engineers assigned to radiation protection departments may have nuclear engineering or health physics backgrounds. Radiation Protection departments are concerned with developing and implementing methods to reduce radiation dose to plant personnel and the offsite population. Often the person assigned responsibility for emergency planning training, plan implementation, and drills is assigned to this department.
Engineers assigned to chemistry departments usually have nuclear engineering, chemistry, or chemical engineering backgrounds. Chemistry departments are responsible for monitoring, testing, identifying problems and solutions for out of specification conditions for the systems containing liquids, gases, chemical, and radioactive materials at the plant.
Engineers assigned to the quality assurance department may
be from any of the engineering disciplines. Engineers may be assigned to review
performance in the plant administration, operations, maintenance, chemistry,
radiation protection, systems departments by assigned personnel, contractors,
supervision, or managers. Such engineers may review the accuracy and
appropriateness of method in design calculations. They would also be expected
to review procedural compliance. The basis for such reviews is provided by NRC
regulations, industry codes and standards, plant license and technical
Engineers assigned to the information technology department usually have computer engineering background or extensive experience with computer engineering topics.
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