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Nuclear Power School

Naval Nuclear Power Training Command
Nuclear Power School
Founded by Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, USN
Former names
Naval Nuclear Power School
MottoKnowledge, Integrity, Excellence
TypeMilitary Technical School
Commanding OfficerCapt Jason D. Anderson, USN
Administrative staff
Location, ,
32°57′57″N 79°58′04″W / 32.9659°N 79.9678°W / 32.9659; -79.9678
CampusNNPTC on
Joint Base Charleston

Nuclear Power School (NPS) is a technical school operated by the U.S. Navy in Goose Creek, South Carolina as a central part of a program that trains 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.[1] As of 2020 the United States Navy operates 98 nuclear power plants, including 71 submarines (each with one reactor), 11 aircraft carriers[2] (each with two reactors), two Moored Training Ships (MTS) and two land-based training plants.[3] NPS is the centerpiece of the training pipeline for U.S. Navy nuclear operators. It follows initial training at Nuclear Field "A" School (for enlisted operators) or a college degree (for officer operators and a small number of civilian contractors), and culminates with certification as a nuclear operator at one of the Navy's two Nuclear Power Training Units (NPTU).

The schooling is considered to be among the most grueling in the US military. [4]


Naval Nuclear Power Training Command Logo

Prospective enlisted enrollees in the Nuclear Power Program must have qualifying line scores on the ASVAB exam, may need to pass the NFQT (Nuclear Field Qualification Test), and must undergo a NACLC investigation for attaining a "Secret" security clearance. Additionally, each applicant must pass an interview with the Advanced Programs Coordinator in the associated recruiting district.

All officer students have had college-level courses in calculus and calculus-based physics. Acceptance to the officer program requires successful completion of interviews at Naval Reactors in Washington, D.C., and a final approval via a direct interview with the Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion, a unique eight-year, four-star admiral position which was originally held by the program's founder, Admiral Hyman G. Rickover.

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.[5] In 2010 the Navy lifted the ban on women on submarines, and one year later the first female officers reported for the first time onboard US Navy Submarines.[6] The first female enlisted sailors reported onboard submarines in 2015.[7] In November 2015, the first female Reactor Officer, Commander Erica L. Hoffmann, took leadership of Reactor Department onboard USS George H.W. Bush. CVN Reactor Officer is the most senior shipboard nuclear officer position in the Navy, with a pre-requisite of completing a commanding officer tour on board a non-nuclear surface ship before the officer can receive a Reactor Officer assignment.

Following graduation from Boot Camp, enlisted personnel proceed to Nuclear Field "A" School for training in rating as Machinist's Mate (MMN), Electrician's Mate (EMN), or Electronics Technician (ETN). Active duty obligation is six years. Applicants must enlist for four years and concurrently execute an agreement to extend their enlistment for 24 months to accommodate the additional training involved. Personnel in the Nuclear Field program will be enlisted in paygrade E-3. Advancement to paygrade E-4 is authorized only after personnel complete all advancement-in-rate requirements (to include minimum time in rate) and Class "A" School, provided eligibility in the Nuclear Field program is maintained. If Nuclear Field Class "A" School training is not completed, the member may be administratively reduced to E-2 or E-1, depending on the member's time in rate at the date of disenrollment. Upon acceptance of automatic advancement to paygrade E-4, the member will be obligated for 12-months of the two-year extension, in addition to the four-year enlistment, regardless of whether or not advanced training (i.e. NPS/NPTU) is completed.[8] They then continue to Nuclear Power School for an additional six months of College level classroom instruction. Graduates of the Nuclear Power School proceed to an additional six months of training at a Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU). This training involves the operation and maintenance of nuclear reactor plants and steam plants. Graduates of NPTU are qualified as nuclear operators, and most graduates immediately receive assignments to serve on submarines and aircraft carriers in the fleet. Upon completion of training at NPS and NPTU, the sailor is obligated to the remaining 12 months of the two year extension resulting in a total of six years active duty obligation for those who complete the program.

A few students from each NPTU class are selected as a Junior Staff Instructor (JSI) based on top academic performance throughout the program, evaluation for aptitude to be an instructor, and willingness to incur an additional 24 month service obligation (for a total of eight years on active duty). JSIs receive additional instructor training at the NPTU and then train students themselves for 24 months before eventually continuing on to serve in the fleet. Additionally, a few MMN graduates from each NPTU class are selected to undergo further training in the Engineering Laboratory Technician (ELT) specialty. ELTs are responsible for collection, analysis, and controls of reactor plant and steam generator water chemistry, as well as radiological analysis and controls. Upon completion of ELT training graduates are given assignments to the fleet.

History of locations

After Admiral Rickover became chief of a new section in the Bureau of Ships, the Nuclear Power Division, he began work with Alvin M. Weinberg, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) director of research, to initiate and develop the Oak Ridge School of Reactor Technology (ORSORT) and to begin the design of the pressurized water reactor for submarine propulsion.[9][10] Training for Fleet operators was subsequently conducted by civilian engineers at Idaho Falls, Idaho (1955-1958) and West Milton, New York (1955-1956). The first formal Nuclear Power School was established in New London, Connecticut in January 1956 with a pilot course offered for six officers and fourteen enlisted men. This school remained in use through Class 62-2 in 1962, after which the school was relocated to Bainbridge, Maryland.

Subsequent locations were United States Naval Training Center Bainbridge, Maryland (1962-1976); Mare Island Naval Shipyard, California (1958-1976); Naval Training Center Orlando, Florida (1976-1998) and its current location, Goose Creek, South Carolina. In 1986, Nuclear Field A School was established in Orlando to provide nuclear in-rate training to Sailors prior to attending Nuclear Power School.

In 1993, in response to the Base Realignment and Closure-directed closure of NTC Orlando by the end of Fiscal Year 1999, the Nuclear Field A School and Nuclear Power School were joined to create Naval Nuclear Power Training Command. A move from Orlando, Florida to Goose Creek, South Carolina began in May 1998 and was completed in January 1999. Construction of the new command allowed Nuclear Field A School and Nuclear Power School to be located in the same building.

Many improvements were added to the command to improve each sailor's quality of life and the effectiveness of training. The Bachelor Enlisted Quarters include microwaves and refrigerators along with semiprivate rooms joined by a common bath. The complex also includes a galley, recreation building, and recreation fields conveniently located for the sailors' use. At full capacity, the NNPTC complex can accommodate over 3,600 students and 480 staff members. Naval Health Clinic Charleston is located across NNPTC Circle from the NNPTC site and is a short walk from the main Rickover Center building.[11]

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 nine units of coursework (typically three courses) through the degree-granting institution to complete their Associate in Applied Science degree in nuclear engineering technology or as much as 67 units to complete a bachelor's degree in Nuclear Engineering Technology or Nuclear Energy Engineering Technology.[citation needed]

The following select colleges offer college credit and degree programs to graduates of the U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School (NNPS):[12]

Nuclear Power Training Unit

The Kesselring Site in New York has the longest operational history of the NPTUs. In 2012 it celebrated the 50,000th sailor qualified at the site.[18] However, two other NPTU sites also provided operational training during the Cold War.[19]

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.[20]

From 1959 until 1993, over 14,000 Naval operators were trained at the S1C prototype at Windsor, Connecticut.[21]

The current Nuclear Power Training Unit is located at the Charleston Naval Weapons Station, Joint Base Charleston (>17,000 acres, 27 square miles) which includes the moored training ships (MTS), USS Daniel Webster (SSBN-626), USS La Jolla (SSN-701), and USS San Francisco (SSN-711)[22] The unit's first MTS, USS Sam Rayburn (SSBN-635), was inactivated in early 2021.


  1. ^ "Nuclear Power School". Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  2. ^ "Active [US Navy Ships] In Commission". Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  3. ^ "THE UNITED STATES NAVAL NUCLEAR PROPULSION - Over 166 Million Miles Safely Steamed On Nuclear Power" (PDF). 1 October 2019. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  4. ^ "Nuclear-trained sailors, considered the Navy's 'best and brightest,' face mental health challenges". NBC News. 11 February 2023.
  5. ^ "Powering the Navy". National Nuclear Security Administration. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  6. ^ "Women in Submarines: 10 years later".
  7. ^ "Enlisted Women Submarines".
  8. ^ "NF-Nuclear Field (6YO) (ETN, EMN, and MMN)" (PDF). 1 November 2021. Retrieved 1 November 2021.
  9. ^ "Rickover: Setting the Nuclear Navy's Course" (PDF). 2002. p. 102.
  10. ^ Rod Powers (March 10, 2012). "From squash court to submarine". The Economist. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  11. ^ "Naval Sea Systems Command > Home > NNPTC > History". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  12. ^ "NUPOC". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  13. ^ "BSAST: Nuclear Engineering Technology". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  14. ^ "BS Degree in Nuclear Energy Engineering Technology at Thomas Edison State University". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  15. ^ "Nuclear Engineering Option" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2008. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  16. ^ "Associate in Science in Nuclear Technology". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  17. ^ "Program for Graduates of U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Training School". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  18. ^ "This isn't rocket science — but it's close". 30 May 2012.
  19. ^ M. Ragheb (February 8, 2019). "Nuclear Marine Propulsion" (PDF). Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  20. ^ Paul Menser. "Cleaning house and charting a future at INL". Global Security. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  21. ^ "Department of Energy" (PDF). Nuclear Regulatory Commission. July 19, 2006. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  22. ^ "Norfolk Naval Shipyard undocks USS San Francisco, a key milestone in training ship conversion". Naval Sea Systems Command. 6 October 2020. Retrieved 25 October 2020.
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Nuclear Power School
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