United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission - Protecting People and the Environment

Planned Adminstrative Changes to the NRC Operator Reactors (PWRs) and Boiling Water Reactors (BWRs) and All Licensed Operators (Generic Letter 89-17)

September 6, 1989


TO:       ALL HOLDERS OF OPERATING LICENSES OR CONSTRUCTION PERMITS FOR 
          PRESSURIZED WATER REACTORS (PWRs) AND BOILING WATER REACTORS 
          (BWRs) AND ALL LICENSED OPERATORS. 

SUBJECT:  PLANNED ADMINISTRATIVE CHANGES TO THE NRC OPERATOR LICENSING 
          WRITTEN EXAMINATION PROCESS - GENERIC LETTER 89-17 

A review of the operator licensing process identified significant improvements 
that could be realized by modifying the way in which the written examination 
is administered.  One improvement is the separate administration of the 
section of the written examination that tests the examinees' knowledge of the 
fundamental principles applicable to all PWR or BWR plants. 

This separate section of the written examination will be referred to as the 
Generic Fundamentals Examination Section (GFES) of the initial licensing 
examination.  The GFES is designed to test the knowledge of material contained 
in the Components and Theory section of the initial written license 
examinations that were administered between February 1, 1982, and October 1, 
1989, to both Reactor Operator (RO) and Senior Reactor Operator (SRO) 
applicants.

The NRC administered a pilot testing program for the GFES to both PWR and BWR 
volunteers in all five regions.  These examinations were constructed from a 
bank of questions, generated jointly by NRC and the Institute of Nuclear Power 
Operations (INPO), designed to support the GFES.  The examinations were 
designed to be totally objective and machine-gradable, thereby allowing a 
prompt turnaround time for grading the examinations and generating individual 
item statistics.  In addition, the NRC sent out feedback forms to all 
applicants who took the first pilot GFES, as well as to facility trainers and 
testing specialists.  The results of a review of the item statistics and the 
feedback forms were used as constructive feedback to modify individual 
questions and validate the reliability of the GFES examination process.  

Individuals participating in the GFES pilot program were allowed to either 
accept their score on the GFES and have it substituted for their score on the 
applicable section of their licensing written examination, or to take the full 
three sections of the written licensing examination.  The NRC has concluded 
the pilot program for validating the GFES and will implement the GFES to test 
license applicants' knowledge of fundamental theory and components beginning 
after October 1, 1989.

For implementation of the new GFES, the NRC will modify the timing of steps to 
be taken for applying for a Reactor Operator or a Senior Reactor Operator 
license to operate a PWR or BWR reactor.  Applicants for an Operator or Senior 
Operator License at Fort St. Vrain and non-power reactors will not be affected 
by the implementation of the GFES.



8909060260
.Generic Letter 89-17                -2-                     September 6, 1989



After October 1, 1989, the first step in applying for a license under 10 CFR 
Part 55, Subpart D - Applications (55.31(a)(3)), will be for an authorized 
representative of the facility to submit a written request that the GFES of 
the written examination be administered to the applicant.  The NRC will not be 
administering the fundamentals section (Section 1 for RO and Section 4 for 
SRO) in conjunction with the site-specific written examination after October 
1, 1989, except as negotiated with the NRC regional offices up to but not 
beyond November 1, 1989.  

NRC will also establish within the Operator Licensing Examiner Standards 
(NUREG-1021) eligibility requirements for taking the GFES.   

     Personnel wishing to register for the GFES must be enrolled in a 
     facility-sponsored training program, the completion of which will satisfy 
     the eligibility requirements for a Reactor Operator or a Senior Reactor 
     Operator license.  

The examinee will be allowed to take the GFES of the written licensing 
examination before completion of all training required for a license.  

Submittal of a complete application for a license (NRC Form 398) before taking 
this section of the examination will not be required. However, the NRC will 
require a written request from an authorized representative of the facility 
licensee by which the applicant will be employed that the fundamentals section 
of the written examination be administered.

The second step in applying for a license will be for the applicant to 
demonstrate proficiency in the material tested by the GFES.  The applicant 
will be able to demonstrate this proficiency by having passed either of the 
two following examinations for the reactor type for which a license is sought.

     1.   An NRC-administered GFES on PWRs or BWRs.

     2.   An NRC written licensing examination for PWRs or BWRs administered 
          between February 1, 1982, and October 1, 1989, completion of which 
          resulted in licensing as a Reactor Operator or Senior Reactor 
          Operator.

     PLEASE NOTE:  This requirement does not include NRC-administered 
     Instructor Certification Examinations or Requalification Examinations.

The third step will be submittal of a license application (NRC Form 398). 
Applicants for an operator or senior operator license will be required to 
document successful completion of the GFES on their application, NRC Form 398 
(date passed), or successful completion of the fundamentals section of an NRC 
written examination administered between February 1, 1982, and October 1, 
1989, as a result of which he or she received an NRC license.


.Generic Letter 89-17                -3-                     September 6, 1989



Following submittal of a license application (NRC Form 398), the applicant 
will be required to pass the site specific section of the initial licensing 
written examination, which test the candidate on material required for the 
safe, day-to-day operation of the specific plant for which a license is 
sought.  This section of the initial licensing examination will be referred to 
as the Site-Specific Examination Section (SSES) of the written examination and 
will test the material currently tested in Sections 2 and 3 (for RO 
applicants) or Sections 5 and 6 (for SRO applicants) of the written licensing 
examination.

Implementation of the GFES will have no effect on the operating test portion 
of the licensing process.  The passing grade for the GFES of the written 
examination will be 80 percent.  The passing grade for the SSES of the written 
examination will remain at 80 percent.  The grade for the GFES will not be 
averaged into the SSES grade.

NRC will administer BWR and PWR GFESs three times annually, on Wednesday of 
the first full week in February, June, and October.  The next GFESs will be 
administered Wednesday, October 4, 1989, in five regional locations.  

This generic letter will be followed by a change to the Operator Licensing 
Examiner Standards (NUREG-1021) promulgating the sequencing of the steps to be 
taken in the licensing written examination process, including specifics on 
submitting names for registration and procedures for implementation.  

                                   Sincerely,


                                   James G. Partlow, Associate Director
                                     for Projects
                                   Office of Nuclear Reactor Regulation


Enclosure:  List of Most Recently Issued NRC Generic Letters 




Technical Contact:  P. Doyle, Jr., NRR
                    (301) 492-1047 
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, June 28, 2013