Nuclear Power School

Nuclear Power School
Naval Nuclear Power Training Command
Nuclear Power School

Founded by Admiral Rickover, USN
Motto Knowledge, Integrity, Excellence
Established 1955
Type Military Technical School
Commanding Officer Capt. Thomas Bailey, USN
Admin. staff 500
Students 2,500
Location Goose Creek, South Carolina, USA
Campus NNPTC on
Former names Naval Nuclear Power School

Nuclear Power School is a technical school operated by the U.S. Navy in Goose Creek, South Carolina to train enlisted sailors, officers, KAPL civilians and Bettis civilians for shipboard nuclear power plant operation and maintenance of surface ships and submarines in the U.S. nuclear navy. The United States Navy currently operates 102 total nuclear power plants including 70 submarines (each with one reactor), 11 aircraft carriers[1] (USS Enterprise has 8 reactors and all others have 2 each), and 4 training/research prototype plants.



Naval Nuclear Power Training Command Logo

Prospective enlisted enrollees in the Nuclear Power Program must have a qualifying score on the ASVAB exam, may need to pass a general science exam, and must undergo a NACLC investigation for attaining a "Confidential" security clearance.

All officer students have had college-level courses in calculus and calculus-based physics. After an interview with Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C., every officer is approved by the Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion.

Women were allowed into the Naval Nuclear Field from 1978 until 1980, when the Navy began only allowing men again.[citation needed] With the repeal of the Combat Exclusion Law in the 1994 Defense Authorization Act, and the decision to open combatant ships to women, the Navy once again began accepting women into NNPS for duty aboard nuclear-powered surface combatant ships.[2] Female graduates of NNPS may serve at shore commands, on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), and on Nimitz Class aircraft carriers. Female officers may also serve aboard SSBN and SSGN submarines. The first female officers bound for submarines began training at NNPTC in late August of 2010.[3]

Enlisted personnel graduate from Nuclear Field "A" School for rating as Machinist's Mate (MM) (3 month "A" School), Electrician's Mate (EM) (6 month "A" School), or Electronics Technician (ET) (6 month "A" School) and are advanced to the rank of Third Class Petty Officer. They then commence six months of training at Nuclear Power School. Graduates of the Nuclear Power School continue training with twenty four weeks of instruction at a Nuclear Power Training Unit. This training involves the operation and maintenance of nuclear reactors. Graduates of NPTU are qualified nuclear operators and continue on to serve in the fleet.

Sailors in the nuclear ratings account for 3% of the enlisted Navy.[citation needed]

History of locations

Originally, the school was located at the Naval Submarine Base New London in Groton, Connecticut. It was moved in 1962 to (the now former) Naval Training Center Bainbridge, Maryland and later to (the now former) Naval Training Center Orlando, Florida.

In addition to the school at Bainbridge, there was a second Nuclear Power School at the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, in Vallejo, California. The Mare Island school operated from January 1959 until 1977 when training was consolidated to Orlando.

Today, the Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC) is located on the Naval Weapons Station Charleston in Goose Creek, South Carolina. Construction of the Charleston facility was completed in 1998. Both locations operated simultaneously for a number of months until the last Orlando class graduated.


While the rigorous training program differs in terms of content for the officers and enlisted ratings, the following topics are provided to all program attendees:

Unlike the enlisted course, the officer course involves extensive post-calculus mathematical examination of reactor dynamics.[1] Officers also cover all topics; enlisted training is specialized for each student's rating. The officer course also assumes students have undergraduate engineering or science degrees.[2]

The nuclear program is widely acknowledged as having the most demanding academic program in the U.S. military. The school operates at a fast pace, with stringent academic standards in all subjects. Students typically spend 45 hours per week in the classroom, and study an additional 10 to 35 hours per week outside of lecture hours, six days per week. Because the classified materials are restricted from leaving the training building, students cannot study outside of the classroom.

Students who fail tests and otherwise struggle academically are required to review their performance with instructors. The student may be given remedial homework or other study requirements. Failing scores due to personal negligence, rather than a lack of ability, can result in charges of dereliction of duty under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Failing students may be held back to repeat the coursework with a new group of classmates, but failing students are typically released from the Nuclear Power Program and are re-designated or discharged.

College credit (enlisted training)

The American Council of Education recommends an average of 60-80 semester-hours of college credit, in the lower-division baccalaureate/associate degree category, for completion of the entire curriculum including both Nuclear Field "A" School and Naval Nuclear Power School. The variation in total amount depends on the specific pipeline completed — MM, EM, or ET. Further, under the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges degree program for the Navy (SOCNAV), the residency requirements at these civilian institutions are reduced to only 10-25%, allowing a student to take as little as 9 units of coursework (typically 3 courses) through the degree-granting institution to complete their Associate in Applied Science degree in nuclear engineering technology or as much as 40 units to complete a Bachelor in Nuclear Engineering Technology degree.[citation needed]

The following select colleges offer college credit and degree programs to graduates of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School.

  • Old Dominion University Mechanical Engineering Technology's Nuclear Technology Option is a special program available to graduates of the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power School.[4],
  • Thomas Edison State College School of Applied Science and Technology Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology (BSAST) Degree is designed for graduates of the U.S. Navy nuclear power program. [5],
  • Excelsior College School of Business and Technology's Bachelor of Science Nuclear Engineering Technology Degree. The Excelsior College baccalaureate degree program in nuclear engineering technology is also accredited by the Technology Accreditation Commission (TAC) of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) [6].
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and Nuclear Engineering, in cooperation with the Education for Working Professionals Office and the U.S. Navy, have developed undergraduate degree programs in nuclear engineering for graduates of the U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Training School [7].

Unfortunately, because large parts of the Navy Nuclear Power Training School curriculum are classified, the amount of college credit awarded may not accurately reflect the depth of the coursework.

College equivalence

The American Council on Education has evaluated the course of instruction at NNPTC and recommended the following credits be given for completion of the enlisted curriculum:[8]

  • 5 hours in general physics
  • 3 hours in heat transfer and fluid flow
  • 3 hours in nuclear reactor engineering
  • 1 hour in atomic and nuclear physics
  • 1 hour in radiation protection technology
  • 3 hours in general chemistry and principles of materials
  • 4 hours in technical mathematics.

Additionally, for Machinist's Mates

  • 3 hours in applied thermodynamics and heat transfer
  • 3 hours in power plant systems
  • 3 hours in basic electricity

For Electronics Technicians and Electrician's Mates

  • 2 hours in hydraulic systems
  • 2 hours in DC circuits
  • 2 hours in AC circuits
  • 2 hours in digital principles
  • 2 hours in electric machines

Several universities offer graduate level credit for completion of the officer training course.[3][4]

Nuclear Power Training Unit

Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU), one of which is also located at Naval Weapons Station Charleston, has two decommissioned submarines, ex-Daniel Webster (MTS-626) and ex-Sam Rayburn (MTS-635). These moored training ships have their missile compartments removed, but have fully operational S5W reactor power plants.

Two land-based reactor prototypes are based at the Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, Kenneth A. Kesselring Site Operation, in Ballston Spa, New York. These are the MARF/S7G and the S8G Trident prototypes. (The S8G core has now been replaced with the S6W reactor core). At one time, two additional prototypes were operational: D1G and S3G.

NPTU History

Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory in New York has the longest operational history of NPTUs. However, two other sites also provided operational training during the Cold War.

From the early 1950s to the mid-1990s, Naval Reactors Facility (NRF) in Idaho trained nearly 40,000 Navy personnel in surface and submarine nuclear power plant operations with three nuclear propulsion prototypes — A1W, S1W, and S5G.[9]

Concurrently, from 1959 until 1993, over 14,000 Naval operators were trained at the S1C prototype at Windsor Locks, Connecticut.


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