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Should You Outsource NRC Generic Fundamentals Training?

by | Apr 5, 2016 | Simulation & Training

The Generic Fundamentals Examination (GFE) is first in a series of examinations administered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to reactor operators. The exam consists of 50 multiple-choice items that test applicant knowledge in three categories of nuclear power plant fundamentals:

  1. Components
  2. Reactor Theory
  3. Thermodynamics

Each category contains several major topics, with multiple subtopics, or information tied to the Knowledge and Abilities Catalog for Nuclear Plant Operators (NUREG-1122 and 1123).

Not only is GFE the initial step in licensing, mastering the fundamentals is a key building block in the entire plant operator program. Understanding “why” the plant behaves the way it does, not just “how”, is critical. At 2:00 a.m., when something abnormal happens, you need your operator to have a thorough understanding of the plant fundamentals and confidence to react properly.

Unfortunately, teaching fundamentals often creates challenges. The training occurs infrequently and requires wide-range knowledge of several complex subjects. Training departments are often hard-pressed to balance their everyday challenges with the need to maintain an experienced staff with 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 number of new license classes, your instructors may not have taught the course in 18 to 36 months. Not every SRO Instructor can 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 nuclear generic 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 staff, poor morale, overtime costs, and training managers struggling to efficiently and sufficiently fulfill their obligations.

The consequences of failure are high. The GFE pass-rate is a KPI for training managers. The lower the number, the more scrutiny your program gets from the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) and Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The cost of remediation for those who fail the exam also 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.

Advantages Include:

  • 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 weaknesses, 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 staff will help ensure that your investment in operator training pays off in highly qualified plant personnel, who pass their certification exam the at the first attempt.