Training the Next Generation in the Nuclear Industry
As the world's nuclear power plants age, so do those who are operating and maintaining them. Expertise residing in the retiring workforce needs to be transferred to the next generation of operators, maintenance staff, and engineers at these aging power plants, as well as to those employed at all new power plants. The Idaho National Laboratory (INL) and Idaho State University, encouraged by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, are working to train the next generation of nuclear operators and skilled maintenance workforce.
"INL has signed a Work For Others agreement with ISU to conduct four motor-operated valve (MOV) training classes each year for the nuclear power industry," said Gary Smith, INL's senior commercialization manager for Nuclear Science and Technology. "This course of instruction will be extremely important in ensuring that key safety knowledge is passed on to the next generation of the nuclear power industry," Smith added.
"We held our first MOV industry training class at ISU's Energy Systems Technology and Education Center (ESTEC) September 10," said Lawrence Beaty, ESTEC's executive director. "Our first four and a half day industry class earned a special distinction. Two of the seven students were international attendees from Belgium." "I have been part of the MOV Engineering Team for the last three years," said Jolinda Reid, nuclear technologist at Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, "and after attending the Motor Operated Valve Design Basis Course, my knowledge and understanding of MOV operations design and function has expanded." She added, "I would highly recommend this course to all personnel in the MOV industry."
Using federal funding, INL designed and fabricated a motor operated valve test stand originally installed at INL to evaluate performance and operating characteristics of a variety of MOVs used within the nuclear industry. Ownership of this test stand has been transferred to ISU and now resides on campus. This test stand and the Motor Operated Valve Design Basis Course are part of the school's technical education program.
"In 2004, ISU began working with INL to transfer the Nuclear Regulatory Commission MOV training course to Idaho State University," said Beaty. "With INL's help and experience, ISU has been able to establish and maintain a highly respected technical training program, from which classes are held two times each year for NRC staff."
In response to utility, consultant, and vendor requests, ISU's ESTEC now is offering similar training courses to nuclear industry engineers and senior technicians to provide detailed understanding of the operation and function of MOVs in nuclear service. The training includes a comprehensive awareness of the design basis for the performance and testing of MOVs, the regulatory aspects of MOV maintenance and testing, and hands-on work with MOV actuators. The agreement between INL and ISU allows INL to provide highly-experienced nuclear expert instructors to conduct the training. INL engineers, Kevin DeWall and Mark Holbrook, are providing this expertise for the ESTEC MOV training course.
"A vital issue for the nuclear industry has been the ability to verify and maintain the safety-related MOVs in the power plants," said Kevin DeWall, INL engineer and ESTEC MOV instructor.
"Based on experiences at Three Mile Island in the late 1970s and later at Davis Besse in 1985, these safety devices need proper initial setup and frequent monitoring and maintenance. Highly trained technicians are needed to ensure the safe operations of our nation's nuclear power plants that produce about 20 percent of America's electricity," DeWall added.
For years, INL provided training to NRC staff on key instructions and procedures for MOV inspections that include personnel qualifications and material status. This training program produced a large body of knowledge about these complicated nuclear components and systems. In fact, much of today's understanding about MOVs came from NRC-sponsored research performed at INL. This knowledge includes historical reports, international journal articles, conference proceedings, user group presentations, and details about industry tools used for both operations and maintenance of the nuclear components.
"Kevin DeWall from INL has been a stalwart as a lecturer to ensure that our training program is of the highest quality," said Beaty. Dewall added, "Mark Holbrook and I have a combined 49 years of experience with nuclear MOV design, maintenance, and training. In our first industry class at ISU, we had the next generation of engineers and operational managers in attendance. So, we are passing our knowledge on to support the safe operation of current and future nuclear reactors."
The MOV training course covers decades of operational and material information, including history, operational theory, valve design, controls, regulatory requirements, periodic verification, and inspection regimen. A key element of the course is a sharing of lessons learned during the past 50 years. Each attendee that completes the course is awarded a certificate.