Bismarck State College
Non-Licensed Operator, Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station (APS)
Despite a background of varied experiences, from being an infantryman in the army to working in the banking industry, John still hadn’t found quite what he was looking for until he started a career in nuclear power. His sister, a Licensed Operator at the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station in Tonopah, Arizona, suggested he look into the nuclear industry as a career path. Wanting to get his foot in the door, John started in the nuclear security department. “I knew I needed to do something because I had absolutely no background in power plants or nuclear power. I had to give them a reason to want to hire me into the nuclear operations department.” The online Associate’s degree in Nuclear Power Technology Program (NUPT) through Bismarck State College, sponsored by EPCE, was the perfect solution.
The NUPT degree program has been developed by the industry, through support from EPCE, the Energy Providers Coalition for Education, including EPCE Member Palo Verde. For over ten years, EPCE has offered an online nuclear energy education program. Most recently, the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations (INPO) Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program (NUCP) Committee approved the issuance of NUCP certificates to eligible graduates, the first online program to receive this important industry distinction.
EPCE programs are designed for working adults, like John, who require the flexibility of an online program. EPCE courses cover the energy industry from electric power and the smart grid to nuclear power. Programs range from Certificates and Associate’s to Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees.
John was able to take advantage of the tuition reimbursement program through Palo Verde, and started on his degree in the fall of 2010, while continuing to work in the nuclear security department. He applied for an auxiliary Non-Licensed Operator (NLO) position with Palo Verde in November 2011, and was even accepted into the program a few months prior to his graduation in May 2012. “If I hadn’t obtained my NUPT degree, I don’t know if I would have been accepted for my position.” John noted.
Since entering the NLO program, John has set his sights even higher. “I’d like to take that next step to become an actual licensed operator. First though, I need to finish my on-the-job training to become an independent worker. Then maybe I can get to the next license class after that.” John also has plans to further his education through a Bachelor’s degree later this year.
John also had some advice for those thinking about the program. “If you try to complete it in a two year period, know that it does take a lot of time, so make sure you plan for it. However, I’m absolutely glad I did because of the doors it opened for me!”