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Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

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What is a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator?

Occupation Description Operate or control nuclear reactors. Move control rods, start and stop equipment, monitor and adjust controls, and record data in logs. Implement emergency procedures when needed. May respond to abnormalities, determine cause, and recommend corrective action.

Life As a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator: What Do They Do?

  • Direct the collection and testing of air, water, gas, or solid samples to determine radioactivity levels or to ensure appropriate radioactive containment.
  • Direct measurement of the intensity or types of radiation in work areas, equipment, or materials.
  • Develop or implement actions such as lockouts, tagouts, or clearances to allow equipment to be safely repaired.
  • Adjust controls to position rod and to regulate flux level, reactor period, coolant temperature, or rate of power flow, following standard procedures.
  • Authorize actions to correct identified operational inefficiencies or hazards so that operating efficiency is maximized and potential environmental issues are minimized.
  • Participate in nuclear fuel element handling activities, such as preparation, transfer, loading, or unloading.

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator Required Skills

Nuclear Power Reactor Operators state the following job skills are important in their day-to-day work.

Operation Monitoring: Watching gauges, dials, or other indicators to make sure a machine is working properly.

Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Operation and Control: Controlling operations of equipment or systems.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Active Listening: Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.

Monitoring: Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

  • Licensed Nuclear Control Room Operator
  • Licensed Reactor Operator
  • Control Room Supervisor
  • Nuclear Station Operator (NSO)
  • Equipment Operator

Job Outlook for Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

In the United States, there were 7,000 jobs for Nuclear Power Reactor Operator in 2016. There is little to no growth in job opportunities for Nuclear Power Reactor Operator. The BLS estimates 500 yearly job openings in this field.

Forecasted Number of Jobs for Nuclear Power Reactor Operators in U.S.

The states with the most job growth for Nuclear Power Reactor Operator are Washington, Idaho, and Nebraska. Watch out if you plan on working in South Carolina, Pennsylvania, or Illinois. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

How Much Does a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator Make?

The average yearly salary of a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator ranges between $68,200 and $127,370.

Salary Ranges for Nuclear Power Reactor Operators

Nuclear Power Reactor Operators who work in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, or Mississippi, make the highest salaries.

Below is a list of the median annual salaries for Nuclear Power Reactor Operators in different U.S. states.

State Annual Mean Salary
Illinois $87,340
Mississippi $97,040
North Carolina $101,520
Pennsylvania $106,870
South Carolina $80,490
Tennessee $90,190

What Tools & Technology do Nuclear Power Reactor Operators Use?

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Nuclear Power Reactor Operators:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Office
  • Microsoft Access
  • Data logging software

How do I Become a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator?

Education needed to be a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator:

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator Degree Level

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nuclear Power Reactor Operator?

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator Work Experience

Where Nuclear Power Reactor Operators Are Employed

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator Sectors

The table below shows some of the most common industries where those employed in this career field work.

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator Industries


Image Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Siuta B. Ika via Public domain

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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