Nuclear Power School

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Naval Nuclear Power Training Command
Nuclear Power School
NNPTC Goose Creek.JPG
Former names
Naval Nuclear Power School
MottoKnowledge, Integrity, Excellence
TypeMilitary Technical School
Commanding OfficerCapt. Andrew Peterson III USN
Administrative staff
Location, ,
32°57′57″N 79°58′04″W / 32.9659°N 79.9678°W / 32.9659; -79.9678Coordinates: 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 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 95 total nuclear power plants including 71 submarines (each with one reactor), 11 aircraft carriers[1] (each with two reactors), and 4 training/research prototype plants.


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 NAPT (nuclear aptitude 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.[2] Female graduates of NNPS may serve at shore commands and on Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. In November 2015, the first female Reactor Officer, Commander Erica L. Hoffmann, took command of Reactor Department onboard USS George H.W. Bush. Female officers may also serve aboard SSBN and SSGN submarines. The first female officers bound for submarines began training at NNPTC in late August 2010.[3]

Enlisted personnel graduate from Nuclear Field "A" School for rating as Machinist's Mate (MMN), Electrician's Mate (EMN), or Electronics Technician (ETN) and are advanced to the rank of a Third Class Petty Officer. They then continue to Nuclear Power School. Graduates of the Nuclear Power School continue training with twenty-four weeks of instruction at a Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU). This training involves the operation and simulated maintenance of nuclear reactor plants and steam plants. Graduates of NPTU are qualified nuclear operators and continue on to serve in the fleet, unless they are selected as a Junior Staff Instructor (JSI). JSIs go through training to be instructors at a NPTU where they will directly assist in qualifying future students. The enlisted school has a very high academic attrition rate and is considered by many to be one of the most academically challenging schools in the U.S. military.[citation needed] Sailors in the nuclear ratings account for 3% of the enlisted Navy.[4]

History of locations[edit]

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.[5][6] 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. The NNPTC complex when fully manned, 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.[7]


The following topics are learned in the curriculum for all program attendees:

Even more intensive than the enlisted course, the officer course involves extensive post-calculus mathematical examination of reactor dynamics. Officers cover all topics in equal depth, whereas enlisted training is specialized for each student's job rating (with significant cross-training in the remaining nuclear specialties). The officer course also requires students to have undergraduate engineering or science degrees.[8]

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 are required to study an additional 10 to 35 hours per week outside lecture hours, five days per week. Because the classified materials are restricted from leaving the training building, students cannot study outside 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 such students are typically released from the Nuclear Power Program and are re-designated or discharged.

College credit (enlisted training)[edit]

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 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):[9]

College equivalence[edit]

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:[citation needed]

  • 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
  • 2 hours in hydraulic systems

For Electronics Technicians and Electrician's Mates

  • 3 hours in basic electricity
  • 2 hours in DC circuits
  • 2 hours in AC circuits
  • 2 hours in digital principles
  • 2 hours in electric machines

The Catholic University of America offers graduate level credit for completion of the officer training course.[15]

Nuclear Power Training Unit[edit]

Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU), one of which is also located at the former Naval Weapons Station Charleston, has three decommissioned submarines. The first two are ex-USS Daniel Webster (MTS-626) and ex-USS Sam Rayburn (MTS-635). These moored training ships have their missile compartments removed, but have fully operational S5W reactor power plants. The most recent addition to the NPTU pier is the USS La Jolla (SSN-701), which was placed in commissioned (Reserve, Stand down) status in February 2015 for conversion to a Moored Training Ship (MTS). During that time, the submarine was cut into three pieces, and a portion of the hull was taken out. Three new hull sections from General Dynamics Electric Boat were added to accommodate the sub's new mission.[16] A newly fabricated hull section was welded in place, containing training spaces, office spaces, and a Supplemental Water Injection System (SWIS) to provide emergency cooling water in the event of an accident. The MTS-701 is permanently moored at Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) at Naval Support Activity Charleston in South Carolina.[17] The MTS-701 arrived in Goose Creek via tug in late 2019 and has since been cleared for student training.

La Jolla is the first Los Angeles-class submarine to undergo the conversion to a training ship and will be followed by USS San Francisco (SSN-711) about two years after, according to the Navy's long-range ship decommissioning plans.[18]

All moored training ships are equipped with a diesel generator-powered Supplemental Water Injection System (SWIS) to provide emergency cooling water in the event of an accident.

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.[19]

NPTU History[edit]

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.[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]


  1. ^ "Active [US Navy Ships] In Commission". Archived from the original on 5 June 2011. Retrieved 18 October 2011.
  2. ^ "Powering the Navy". National Nuclear Security Administration. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  3. ^ "Navy says it is ready to end ban on women in submarines". CNN. February 23, 2010. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  4. ^ "U.S. Navy Nuke School". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  5. ^ "Rickover: Setting the Nuclear Navy's Course" (PDF). 2002. p. 102.
  6. ^ Rod Powers (March 10, 2012). "From squash court to submarine". The Economist. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  7. ^ "Naval Sea Systems Command > Home > NNPTC > History". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  8. ^ Submarine Officer
  9. ^ "NUPOC". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  10. ^ "BSAST: Nuclear Engineering Technology". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  11. ^ "BS Degree in Nuclear Energy Engineering Technology at Thomas Edison State University". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  12. ^ "Nuclear Engineering Option" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on October 13, 2008. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  13. ^ "Associate in Science in Nuclear Technology". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  14. ^ "Program for Graduates of U.S. Navy Nuclear Power Training School". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  15. ^ The Catholic University of America Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  16. ^ Anna Taylor (February 15, 2017). "San Francisco arrives at NNSY for MTS conversion". The Flagship. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  17. ^ Kevin Copeland (November 17, 2014). "USS La Jolla Changes Homeport to Norfolk". Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  18. ^ Bo Petersen (February 15, 2012). "Navy to expand nuclear training school in Goose Creek". The Post and Courier. Retrieved February 17, 2019.
  19. ^ a b 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.