McMaster Nuclear Reactor operators recertified by Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
MNR’s reactor operators are certified by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) – Canada’s federal regulator of nuclear energy and materials. The pathway to becoming a reactor operator involves a significant amount of initial and ongoing training, including regular recertification. The CNSC requires reactor operators be recertified every five years.
Two of MNR’s reactor operators received recertification from the CNSC earlier this year. Chris Heysel, Director of McMaster’s Nuclear Operations & Facilities (NO&F), says ongoing training and certification is part of what makes MNR’s operators so great at their jobs.
“Due to MNR’s unique design, operator training takes place almost entirely inside the reactor building,” says Heysel. “Operators learn all aspects of MNR’s safe operating requirements, and their in-depth understanding of the reactor is what keeps it running safely and smoothly.”
To become a reactor operator, candidates must successfully complete a series of training modules. Before they begin training, candidates must meet the educational requirements needed to be considered for the position and have the necessary work experience to enter the program. Throughout the training process, aspiring reactor operators develop the theoretical and practical knowledge and skills needed to operate the McMaster Nuclear Reactor. Operators are trained in the relevant science fundamentals, reactor physics, radiation protection and safety programs, and equipment operation and repair.
In addition to training, candidates are required to operate reactor controls under the supervision of a certified operator for a minimum of 480 hours to confirm that they can perform their duties competently.
Once they have completed their training, candidates undergo oral exams conducted by McMaster’s Reactor Manager and Senior Health Physicist. If successful, they are required to sit for a 6-hour written certification examination which is reviewed and approved by CNSC staff, as well as NO&F’s Director and Training Manager. After careful review of each candidate’s training records and exam score, the CNSC grants the candidate certification.
By the time they are certified, MNR’s reactor operators have participated in approximately 2,500 hours of training and have completed at least 25 comprehensive written and on-the-job evaluations. Nevertheless, every five years each reactor operator is required to undergo recertification, writing a new exam to ensure continued excellence in operation of MNR.
MNR’s reactor operators undergo continuous training throughout their careers. They learn to operate new equipment and perform new procedures. They also regularly participate in emergency preparedness drills and evaluations with other on-campus groups who play a key role in ensuring the continued safe operation of the McMaster Nuclear Reactor, including McMaster University’s Health Physics Department, Crisis Management Group, and EOHSS team, and off-campus organizations like the Hamilton Police Service, Hamilton Fire Department, and Hamilton Paramedic Service.
In addition to the two operators that were recertified this year, two of MNR’s reactor operators were recertified last year and three more are scheduled to be recertified between 2023 and 2024.