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Resolution of Generic Safety Issues: Issue 134: Rule on Degree and Experience Requirement (Rev. 1) ( NUREG-0933, Main Report with Supplements 1–35 )


Since the TMI-2 accident in March 1979, to which human error was a major contributor, the issue of academic requirements for reactor operators has been a major concern of the NRC. In October 1985, the NRC issued a Policy Statement on Engineering Expertise on Shift996 which contained two alternatives for providing the necessary technical and academic knowledge to the shift crews in the control rooms of nuclear power plants. Option 1 of the policy statement permits an individual to serve in the combined senior operator/shift technical advisor (SO/STA) role if that individual holds either (1) a bachelor's degree in engineering technology or physical science from an accredited institution, or (2) a professional engineer's license. Option 2 permits continuation of the separate STA on each shift who holds a bachelor's degree or equivalent and meets the criteria stated in NUREG-0737.98

In January 1986, the Commission directed1264 the staff to prepare an ANPRM that would require SO applicants after January 1, 1991, to have a baccalaureate degree in engineering or physical science from an accredited institution. The object of this contemplated rule was to upgrade the levels of engineering and accident management expertise on shift.

For candidates with a baccalaureate degree, the existing requirement of two years of nuclear power plant experience would be amended to require at least one of the two years of operating experience to be with a similar commercial nuclear reactor operating at greater than 20% power. SOs licensed prior to January 1, 1991, who did not hold degrees in engineering or physical science would be "grand-fathered." Only one reexamination would be allowed for applicants who apply before January 1, 1991. No degree equivalency would be acceptable after January 1, 1991. Based upon Commission direction to prepare an ANPRM on degreed SOs, this issue was given a high priority.


In April 1987, issues and proposed options concerning degree requirements for SOs were presented to the Commission in SECY-87-101.1042 In 1989, the NRC issued a policy statement1265 on Education for Senior Reactor Operators and Shift Supervisors at Nuclear Power Plants. In issuing this policy statement, the Commission believed that the level of engineering and technical knowledge of shift operating personnel has a direct bearing on the safety of nuclear power plants and that this safety is enhanced by having, on each shift, a team of NRC-licensed professionals that combine technical and academic knowledge with plant-specific training and substantial hands-on operating experience. With the issuance of the policy statement, the proposed rule was withdrawn.1266 Thus, this issue was RESOLVED and no new requirements were established.


0098.NUREG-0737, "Clarification of TMI Action Plan Requirements," U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, November 1980, (Supplement 1) January 1983.
0996.Federal Register Notice 50 FR 43621, "Commission Policy Statement on Engineering Expertise on Shift," October 28, 1985.
1042.SECY-87-101, "Issues and Proposed Options Concerning Degree Requirement for Senior Operators," U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, April 16, 1987. [8706030157]
1264.Memorandum for V. Stello from S. Chilk, "Degree Operators: Advance Notice of Rulemaking," January 23, 1986. [8601280245]
1265.Federal Register Notice 54 FR 33639, "Education for Senior Reactor Operators and Shift Supervisors at Nuclear Power Plants; Policy Statement," August 15, 1989.
1266.Federal Register Notice 54 FR 33568, "Education and Experience Requirements for Senior Reactor Operators and Supervisors at Nuclear Power Plants; Withdrawal of Proposed Rulemaking," August 15, 1989.