How Much Do You Know About the Nuclear Program?

Published: 22nd February 2012
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There are distinct categories of enlisted Navy Nukes. If you become an enlisted Navy Nuke, you can be a Machinist Mate, an Electrician’s Mate, or an Electronics Technician. Each of the rates start off by enduring about 8 weeks of basic boot camp training. After the initial 8 weeks each of the three different rates will go to a different Nuclear Field “A” School.

Machinist Mate, or MM, A-School is centered around high-level algebra and shipboard mechanical systems. The Machinist Mate “A” School lasts (on average) 3 months. Then, a Machinist Mate will report to Nuclear Power School.

Electrician’s Mate, or EM, A-School last (on average) 24 weeks. EMs learn about electrical transformers, basic electrical generators, and several types of electrical motors. Electrician’s Mates are perhaps the most adaptable Nuke because they study an amalgamation of electronics, mechanics, and electrical equipment.

Electronics Technician Nuclear Field “A” School focuses on tons of advanced Algebra and Component-level Electronics Theory and Troubleshooting. An ET Nuke’s first school lasts for approximately 6 months. You will learn basic electronic theory, advanced electronic troubleshooting, repair, and electronic equipment upkeep, and how to solve advanced-level algebra blindingly fast.

After “A” School, an Electronics Technician gets assigned to a Power School class. ETs, EMs, and MMs learn practically similar courses in Nuclear Power School. General nuclear theory is taught and the courses are often varied only slightly for each rate depending on the nature of their job in the fleet. A nuclear reactor plant has mechanical systems, electrical power systems, and nuclear reactors. MMs will focus more on mechanics. EMs are centered around electrical power generation, and ETs will focus more on nuclear reactor theory.

This is a 6 month long course where enlisted nukes must learn the basic theory behind nuclear power, as well as more nuclear physics and advanced algebra. Most of these subjects are almost the same as what an undergraduate level mechanical or nuclear engineer would take. The final phase of the Navy Nuclear Pipeline before getting your first assignment as a shipboard Nuke is called Nuclear Prototype. This is an extremely difficult part of the training program because navy nukes have to train on, and work in, a live nuclear reactor and power plant. Nuclear prototype also has a challenging classroom academic course in addition to the practical phase. Nuclear Prototype lasts for about 6 months.

Upon completion of Nuclear Prototype, a Nuclear Electronics Technician, or “ET Nuke,” reports aboard a nuclear powered ship or submarine. You can imagine that, a nuclear power plant has an unbelievable amount of electronic equipment. A portion of an ET Nuke’s workload is to troubleshoot and calibrate all of the electronic equipment in the power plant. The most important part of an ET Nuke’s assignment is to become a Nuclear Reactor Operator. An ET Nuke is the only Nuke that is allowed to be a Nuclear Reactor Operator, and has hands directly on the switch that controls the Nuclear Reactor.

While an ET Nuke is at a watch station, they will usually be in an air-conditioned room operating the nuclear reactor. When an ET Nuke is not standing watch, they may be repairing the power plant’s electronic equipment or reactor safety systems. Among most Nukes, it is a familiar semi-serious claim that ET Nukes are the “nerds” of the nuclear program. This most likely is attributed to the fact that Electronic Technicians complete the longest training period or because the rate tends to attract Star Trek fans.

When an EM gets to its first ship or submarine, they are responsible for all of the large electrical motors and electrical generators in the reactor power plant. Electrician’s Mates also operate electrical power distribution throughout the entire ship.

MMs on a ship maintain all of the valves, reductions gears, ball bearings, hydraulic pumps, and other hydraulic systems. Of all the 3 types of Nukes, MMs are the most likely to work with their hands. Where ETs are considered the geeks of the nuclear field, MMs are considered the muscle-bound members of the nuclear community.

Navy Nukes are a fascinating group of individuals. If you want to learn all about being a Navy Nuke check out

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