With the advent of the First Nuclear submarine the USS Nautilus the Navy has had a training program to train people to deal with Nuclear power and nuclear reactors. Training for fleet operations for Nuclear Power operators is conducted at the Navy school in South Carolina. The Navy Nuclear Power school is a very intense scientific program operated by the Navy to train sailors and enlisted personnel to operate shipboard nuclear power plants on submarines and surface vessels.
To qualify for the Navy Nuclear Power Training program an enlisted Navy Sailor has to already have graduated from the Class A school that is their assigned rating, such at Electronics Technician or Machinist Mate. If they have graduated from their Class A school they can apply for the Navy Nuclear Power School. It is a very competitive program; only the top 3 percent of the sailors in the entire Navy are selected. The sailors that make up the program are called “nukes” and are considered the brains of the Navy, the scientists and mathematics whizzes of the service.
This school is acknowledged as having the most technical and demanding occupational training program in the United States today. It is a very face paced program with very strict standards of all its academic programs. Classes typically spend about 45 hours a week in the classroom and about an additional 20-40 hours a week in study and homework. Students have to actually study in the classroom, because most of the material is classified, and when students access study materials a security badge has to be worn. When a student graduates from the program they are awarded a certificate that is considered at a higher level than a bachelors degree.
The school is located at Goose Creek South Carolina, and graduates of the school go to Prototype Nuclear reactor units for further training and then later assignment to vessels and submarines in the Navy fleet. This is one of the most challenging Navy Training and education programs; sailors that have served in the Nuclear Power program and then are separated are often employed as college level instructors, teaching physics or nuclear physics. Despite being a highly competitive program the Navy has no problem finding candidates, it is a very lucrative program for those that can achieve the high academic standards.