Should you outsource Generic Fundamentals training?
The Generic Fundamentals Examination (GFE) is the first in a series of examinations administered by the NRC to reactor operators. The exam consists of 50 Multiple-choice test items that examine applicant knowledge in three broad categories of nuclear power fundamentals: (1) Components, (2) Reactor Theory, and (3) Thermodynamics. Each category contains several major topics, with multiple subtopics, or knowledges tied to the Knowledge and Abilities Catalog for Nuclear Plant Operators (NUREG-1122 and 1123).
Not only is GFE the initial step in licensing, but mastering the fundamentals is a key building block in the entire operator training program. Understanding “why” the plant behaves the way it does, not just “how” it behaves, is critical. At 2:00 am, when something abnormal happens, you need your operator to have a thorough understanding of the fundamentals, and the confidence to react properly.
Unfortunately, teaching fundamentals often creates challenges for your training department. The training occurs infrequently and requires a wide-ranging knowledge of several complex subjects. So training departments are often hard-pressed to balance their everyday challenges with the need to maintain an experienced staff with the recent practice and long-term experience to provide top-notch fundamentals training.
Hidden costs of In-House Generic Fundamentals Training
Based on the structure of your training program and the number of new license classes, your instructors may not have taught the course in 18 to 36 months. Not every SRO Instructor can be (or wants to be) a GFE instructor. The course is fast and intense, and many instructors prefer to teach more advanced courses. While they conduct fundamentals training, your plant’s most talented and experienced instructors are no long available for advanced training or other critical tasks such as:
- Developing courses and updating lesson plans
- Evaluating and updating training materials
- Improving existing courses and upgrading their own credentials and capabilities
- Maintaining the existing accreditation of the plant’s training system
Obvious Consequences of Failing Generic Fundamentals
All of these factors can result in overworked training staffs, poor morale, overtime costs, and training managers struggling to efficiently and sufficiently fulfill their training obligations.
The consequences of failure are high. GFE pass-rate is a KPI for training managers, and the lower the number, the more scrutiny your program gets from INPO and the NRC. And the cost of remediation for those who fail the exam eats into your utility’s bottom line.
Outsourcing Fundamentals Training – A Simple Solution
A simple solution is to supplement your existing staff, as needed, with highly experienced and well-trained experts from outside the organization.
- Experts who teach GFE subjects all the time are better prepared to relay the information. And, they enjoy teaching it.
- Experts can evaluate student strengths and weakness, and determine when and how to remediate students to achieve the best results and save you money.
- Good outsource partners monitor the performance of their instructors to help guarantee customer satisfaction.
Augmenting your training staff will help ensure that your investment in operator training pays off in highly qualified plant personnel, who pass their certification exam the first time through.