The Westinghouse Senior Reactor Operator Equivalency Certification has been named simulator training course of the year in the 2014 NEI Nuclear Training Awards.
Throughout the nuclear industry, there are nuclear power plant managers, supervisors and other personnel who do not need a senior reactor operator licence, but who require a similar level of knowledge about integrated control room operations. The Westinghouse Senior Reactor Operator Equivalency Certification programme provides the knowledge required by these personnel to be effective in the nuclear industry.
The 15-week course is taught using the Westinghouse Nuclearning® Educational Model, which incorporates three key concepts: strategic partnerships, integrated plant focus and blended learning techniques. These concepts are used to educate students about nuclear power plant systems, plant evolutions, control room procedures and the underlying reasons for them; and to promote long-term retention of the skills and knowledge they have developed throughout the duration of the course.
The first four weeks of the course are taught asynchronously online using the Blackboard™ Learn platform, which is accessed using iPads that are provided to each student. Students study nuclear fundamentals and basic plant systems in an interactive forum with the instructor and with other students. Discussion boards are used extensively for students to answer questions posed by their instructor and respond to each other’s posts. These interactions are graded and account for 50 per cent of the student grade during this phase; a weekly exam accounts for the other 50 per cent. While this phase is exclusively online, the Blackboard technology is used throughout the course for access to course materials and weekly exams.
Students then interact in person, beginning in a classroom environment where, for four weeks, they delve further into the details of the plant systems. Lectures are kept to a minimum and are replaced by a highly interactive learning experience in which students become fully engaged participants. A carefully planned balance of learning techniques is used, including student-led learning exercises. Apple TV facilitates this process by projecting information from students’ iPads to smartboards and whiteboards in the classroom. Desktop simulators are also incorporated to enhance the classroom experience, and to assist the students’ transition into the control room simulator for the remaining seven weeks of the course.
During the last phase of the course, the control room simulator allows students to gain invaluable hands-on operations experience. Students are carefully monitored by instructors as they work as an operational team. They begin by performing normal plant evolutions, such as plant startups, shutdowns, reactivity manipulations and power changes. The students are then introduced to minor plant malfunctions, such as instrument failures, pump trips and valve misalignments. The students complete the simulator training with plant emergency simulations, including steam-line breaks, loss-of-coolant accidents, steam generator tube ruptures and beyond-design-basis events.
Throughout the course, students must achieve an 80 per cent score on each weekly exam. Additionally, evaluation during the simulator phase includes monitoring students’ integrated plant knowledge and human performance behaviours, teamwork, communication and leadership skills. All successful candidates must pass a final written examination, an individual startup evaluation and a crew operational evaluation. During the crew operational evaluation, each student is evaluated as the reactor operator, the balance-of-plant operator, the shift technical advisor and the senior reactor operator. Two SRO-certified evaluators assess each student’s performance during the crew operational examination using a methodology similar to that used by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its SRO licence examinations.
Westinghouse continuously evaluates and refines the programme and by doing so, has created a highly optimised course, representing a blend of research-validated andragogical methods, learning technologies and rigorous student assessment.
“Learning PWR operations in both the classroom and simulator broadened my operational understanding of the plant and helped me to become both a stronger leader and follower. This experience directly resulted in my selection to a management position in my organisation, and has helped me to communicate more effectively with nuclear operators, maintenance personnel, and other managers," said one former student.
Other shortlisted courses (Simulator training course of the year)
- Physics and Technology of water-cooled Reactors through the use of PC-based Simulators (Tecnatom/IAEA)
- Diagnosis in Main Control Room Simulator (Tecnatom)