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U.K. nucleargraduates Training Program

In February 2012, thirty individuals from the United Kingdom (UK) nucleargraduates program (http://www.nucleargraduates.com/) traveled to Texas A&M University to participate in a two-week training program hosted by NPI.  The cohort included 5 individuals from the nucleargraduates management team as well as 25 nucleargraduates program members.  The nucleargraduates program includes three eight-month secondments with two-week training programs between each of the secondments. The program is designed for graduates in engineering, science, business, finance and other areas critical to the nuclear industry. At the completion of the program, graduates have a developed a greater understanding of the political and commercial aspects of the nuclear industry as well as developing technical depth in their respective subject area.  As such, the NPI training program was custom-designed to satisfy the needs of this unique cohort of participants.  Principal components of the training program included:

Lectures topics included in the training program:

  • Reactor Technology:  Reactor technology is at the heart of the nuclear industry.  A series of lectures provided by Texas A&M nuclear engineering faculty and staff focused on the evolution of reactors from  GEN I to GEN IV.
  • Radiological Protection & Safety:  Dr. John Poston (Texas A&M nuclear engineering faculty and NPI researcher), who is world renowned for his work on radiological protection, delivered a lecture on radiological protection and safety.
  • Safeguards/Security/Non-proliferation:  Safeguards, security and non-proliferation form an important part of the nuclear industry, particularly with the perceived threat of terrorism.  Dr. William Charlton, Director of the Nuclear Security Science and Policy Institute discussed these important topics with program participants. 
  • Leadership training:  The participants were introduced to a variety of leadership models and how they can be used in different situations; the training was provided by Mr. Roy Miller, a nucleargraduates team boss.
  • Westinghouse presentation:  Westinghouse provided an update on their global nuclear new-build program including information about the AP1000 reactor.                       

Visits to campus reactors:  Texas A&M is the only university in the U.S. with two research nuclear reactors. 

  • AGN Reactor: The participants visited the AGN reactor, which is a 5w reactor used by Texas A&M students as a learning tool.  The participants were given the operational experience of running a nuclear reactor that would enhance their understanding of reactor technology.
  • The Training, Research, Isotopes, General Atomics (TRIGA) reactor:  The TRIGA reactor is much more powerful than the AGN reactor, with an output power of 1 MW. Since TRIGA is an open-water reactor, the participants were able to visualize what happens to a reactor and understand more about how the
    technology works.

Exercises conducted during the NPI training program: 

  • Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) Footprints Challenge:  This exercise gave the training participants a chance to practice their presentation skills as they informed NPI hosts of the small and medium enterprises (SME) challenge.  Skills gained during the challenge included financial acumen, communication, time management, teamwork, marketing, stakeholder management, legal, procurement, and more.
  • Systems Engineering Team Challenge: The participants were divided into teams and worked on the systems engineering challenge throughout the program. Systems engineering is extremely important for organizations across the nuclear industry. The goal of the exercise was to give the participants a background of what systems engineering is and to give them an understanding of the industry approach to systems engineering and how it is applied in practice At the end of the training program, the teams presented their solutions to the team challenge and discussed their solutions with a panel of professionals. 

Other opportunities during two-week training program:

  • Out-of-town trip to South Texas Project (STP):  STP is an operating nuclear power plant facility (near Bay City, Texas).  A tour of the STP site was provided by facility personnel; participants received information regarding STP's (1) leadership structure; (2) knowledge transfer and retention strategies; and (3) workforce development and partnerships.  The tour also included a visit to the in-house Nuclear Training Facility where the participants were able to see how reactor operators are trained in the US. Other activities associated with this three-day out-of-town trip included:    
    • Meeting with high school students - After the STP visit, participants toured Van Vleck High School and engaged with students in a science, technology, engineering & math (STEM) activity.   
    • Wharton County Junior College (Wharton, Texas):  The participants received a tour of the campus facilities to show how they compare to colleges in the UK.  They noted that there is a much higher practical aspect to the courses (as opposed to colleges in the UK) and development of people for jobs as technicians and operators for the STP nuclear power facility. 
    • Meeting with an elected county judge:  Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald discussed the issues around nuclear power and revealed the vast support for nuclear in Texas and particularly Matagorda County. The training participants interacted with the judge and discussed his prominent role in emergency response.
  • Texas Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) Disaster City:  Disaster City is a unique world-class emergency response training facility utilized by countries around the world.  As part of their training experience, program attendees participated in an emergency response exercise, which centered on the hypothetical scenario of a potential radioactive escape from a train transporting nuclear fuel.