The world experience of operating NPPs, the Chornobyl disaster, the tragic events at Fukushima Daiichi NPP testify to the need for advertence to safety and compliance with the principles of its culture at nuclear facilities. This can be achieved only with high-quality training of engineering personnel in the nuclear power industry.
The specifics of NPP personnel training are somewhat different from other areas since the training process of nuclear specialists continues throughout their entire career, starting from the choice, admission and studying in a specialized educational institution.
There are currently nine educational institutions in Ukraine that train specialists in the field of nuclear energy: the National Technical University of Ukraine “Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”, Lviv Polytechnic National University, Odesa National Polytechnic University, NTU “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute”, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Vinnytsia National Technical University, the National University of Water and Environmental Engineering, SHEI Ukrainian State University of Chemical Technology, Higher State Educational Establishment “Kyiv Energy College”; Rivne NPP that is one of a kind also trains specialists for work at NPP.
Since the admission campaign is very soon, we hope this information will be useful to applicants, will help to orientate and decide on an important decision in the life of every person. In addition, the ordinary reader will be given an understanding of who is on guard for the safety of the operation of nuclear installations in Ukraine.
University training in nuclear industry
Personnel training in nuclear industry is a rather controversial issue today. On the one hand, the industry requires new personnel to replace those specialists who stood at the origins of nuclear energy formation in Ukraine, and on the other hand, the profession of a nuclear engineer is becoming less in demand among applicants for a number of external reasons. In particular, due to the financial and economic instability in the industry.
It has always been the case that most of the applicants to specialized universities came from satellite cities of nuclear power plants, because young men and women often followed their parents. However, not everyone went to work at nuclear power plants. A significant number of graduates provided the staffing in the service, maintenance, production, scientific and technical, as well as design organizations operating in this area. Having acquired the specialty of a nuclear engineer, a young man opens up wide opportunities, and they include not only work at a nuclear power plant.
As we have already noted above, there are currently nine universities that train nuclear specialists in Ukraine. The leaders are surely the Kyiv and Odesa Polytechnic Universities; before the occupation of the Crimean Peninsula, the first place on this list was given to the Sevastopol Institute of Nuclear Energy and Industry, which was famous for its logistical support and experienced teaching staff. However, it does not train Ukrainians today.
Universities improve their training programs each time considering the new needs of professional education that are required by the current state of affairs. For example, the management of the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute decided to open an intake of students for the master’s program in physical protection, accounting and control of nuclear materials last year. Specialists were not trained in this area in Ukraine before. The training takes place in the Nuclear Power Plants & Engineering Thermal Physics Department in Faculty of Heat and Power Engineering that is licensed and accredited to train qualified specialists.
Students have the opportunity to learn not only the basics of nuclear security, information security and the design of the physical protection systems, they will also be able to assess vulnerability and identify threats, develop regulations and preventive measures to counter threats, manage emergency and crisis situations. Highly professional teaching staff conducts training, including practitioners, specialists who were trained at the University of Texas in the USA, Sandia National Laboratories in the USA and took part in IAEA training courses.
In general, students studying at the Nuclear Power Plants & Engineering Thermal Physics Department in the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute learn to control nuclear installations, simulate neutronic, thermal, and hydraulic processes in NPP equipment, and solve problems related to NPP reliability and safety. Graduates have the exclusive right for obtaining a license to operate nuclear installations. They can occupy positions from an engineer to a director general at a nuclear power plant or work for other industry enterprises.
It should be remembered that the lectors of the Faculty of Heat and Power Engineering in the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute are practicing specialists; it gives additional advantages for students, because their lessons are formed not only based on theory, but also considering specific examples. In particular, the head of SSTC NRS safety analysis unit Dmytro Gumenyuk, the head of the laboratory of the operational safety analysis department in SSTC NRS Roman Serafin, the head of SSTC NRS neutronic processes department Iurii Ovdiienko, the head of the laboratory of the equipment qualification and seismic resistance department in the SSTC NRS Oleksandr Sakhno and leading researcher in SSTC NRS neutronic processes department Volodymyr Khalimonchuk give lectures for future nuclear scientists in the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute.
According to the QS World University Rankings 2019, the Kyiv Polytechnic Institute was recognized as the best one among higher educational institutions of Ukraine for training of engineers in several specialties such as engineering and mechanical, aeronautical and manufacturing, engineering and electrical, as well as electronic specialties.
The well-equipped logistics base of the universities allows not only knowledge consolidation in practice in laboratory conditions, but also work on own developments. For example, the most of classrooms in the institutes are equipped with modern information and communication equipment using interactive technology. Technical solutions for equipping classrooms are unique in many cases. The classrooms are equipped maximally considering the interior features of the room and depends on the requirements for functionality and specifics of a particular room.
The Odesa National Academy of Food Technologies started personnel training in nuclear energy in the city of Odesa in 1964. The specialty was transferred to the Odesa National Polytechnic University (at that time it was the Odesa Polytechnic Institute) in 1971.
The Odesa National Polytechnic University has the highest ranking among the technical higher educational institutions in Odesa according to the well-known independent ranking such as TOP-200 Ukraine, Consolidated Ranking of HEI in Ukraine, Ranking by Wages of Ukrainian HEI Graduates according to the Hroshi Magazine, Ranking of HEI in Ukraine according to the Scopus Indicators, Ranking of Ukrainian HEI according to the DOU Portal.
Specialists in the field of nuclear energy are trained at the Institute of Energy and Computer Integrated Control Systems in three departments: Nuclear Power Plant, Water and Fuel Technology, and Automation Computer Technology Department.
Training programs at the Odesa National Polytechnic University provide for the opportunity for students to participate in the academic mobility programs to study abroad during one semester. Thanks to this, students have the opportunity to obtain additional education at higher educational institutions in Poland, Spain, Portugal, Germany and Turkey.
The National Polytechnic University “Kharkiv Polytechnic Institute” ranks the third among all higher educational institutions in Ukraine and the sixth in the international Webometrics Ranking of World’s Universities. Personnel training in nuclear industry began in 1968 at the Heat Engineering Department. It is currently conducted at the Department of Heat Engineering and Energy Efficient Technologies, Power Plant, Turbine Construction, Steam Generator Engineering, Electrical Insulation and Cable Engineering, Power Transmission, which are part of the Institute of Education and Science in Power Engineering, Electronics and Electromechanics.
Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv is the best in teaching among six Ukrainian higher educational institutions that are included in the international annual World University Ranking. It is ranked 277th and was included into the Silver League. It is also in the Top 500 World Universities of the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2020 and was ranked in 301-500 group.
The training of specialists in the nuclear energy sector began in 1978 at the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Faculty of Physics in the specialty of Physics and Astronomy and specialization in Nuclear Power. Students internship in scientific centers, research institutes, institutions and laboratories of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine (Institute for Nuclear Research, Institute for Theoretical Physics, Institute for Safety Problems of Nuclear Power Plants, etc.), in the leading foreign scientific laboratories, in Ukrainian state institutions and at the enterprises operating in the corresponding fields.
Students of the Department of Nuclear Physics at Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv participate in scientific, technical and engineering developments starting from the 3rd or 4th year of study. Laboratory work covers all sections of the general course in physics.
Lviv Polytechnic National University was recognized as one of the best among higher educational institutions of Ukraine in training engineers according to the QS World University Rankings 2019 in the field of engineering and technology, physical sciences, computer science and business & economics.
It ranks position 751-800 in the overall ranking of the best universities in the world QS World University Rankings 2019.
Personnel training in nuclear power industry was started in 1973. It is conducted in the Department of Heat and Power Engineering, Thermal and Nuclear Power Plants and the Department of Electric Power Engineering and Control Systems at the Institute of Power Engineering and Control Systems.
Vinnytsia National Technical University entered the TOP-300 (296th place) of the best universities in the QS University Rankings: Eastern Europe and Central Asia in 2019 for the first time, in which more than 350 best universities from 24 countries of Eastern Europe and Asia took part. The university ranks 40th in the ranking of Sci Verse Scopus scientometric database. According to the TOP-200 Ukraine rating whose methodology was developed in accordance with the Berlin University Ranking Principles, VNTU took 25th place among Ukrainian universities in 2019. VNTU takes the 1st place among the higher educational institutions in its region according to the consolidated rating of the HEI of Ukraine 2019, it takes the honorable seventh place among the institutions in the central region of Ukraine and is the prestigious top ten of higher educational institutions.
Personnel training in nuclear energy is conducted in the Faculty of Electrical Power Engineering and Electromechanics at the Department of Power Plants and Systems. Practical exercises at production site during training are conducted at nuclear power plants, as well as at the Dniester cascade of the hydroelectric power plant and pumped storage power plant, Ladyzhyn thermal power plant, etc.
Academic mobility of students and lectors is a prerequisite to form common educational and research space. VNTU students are sent for internships to the world’s leading universities and can study at foreign universities under the academic mobility programs for students: Dual/Double Degree Programs. VNTU conducts active cooperation with universities in Poland, Bulgaria, Georgia, Czech Republic and Germany.
The National University of Water and Environmental Engineering ranks 64th in the Top 200 Ukraine. According to the Webometrics rating, it ranks 72nd in Ukraine. This is the only higher educational institution in the sphere of water engineering in Ukraine that has trained specialists in energy industry since its establishment.
The training of specialists in the energy industry is conducted in the Department of Hydropower, Thermal Power Engineering and Hydraulic Machines, the Department of Hydraulic Engineering and Hydraulics at the Educational and Scientific Institute of Water and Environmental Engineering, as well as in the Department of Automation, Electrical and Technical Computer-Integrated Technologies at the Educational and Scientific Institute of Automation, Cybernetics and Computer Engineering.
The university implements the academic mobility program according to Erasmus + in cooperation with the Lublin Polytechnic University to train fourth-year students on a semester basis in Poland. Students take part in a summer camp under the Visegrad Fund European Grant Program.
The laboratory base of the departments makes allows necessary research and contributes to the acquisition of practical skills for students to work in their future specialty.
SHEI Ukrainian State University of Chemical Technology ranks 16th among all higher educational institutions in Ukraine and took the second place in the city of Dnipro according to scientometric indicators of the ranking database. The University is the only representative from the Dnipro region in SCImago international scientometric rating and takes 11th place in it among higher educational institutions of Ukraine. According to the academic rating of Webometrics, SHEI Ukrainian State University of Chemical Technology took 34th place among universities in Ukraine and 4th place in the Dnipro region. According to Top-200 Ukraine 2019 ranking that was formed in compliance with the Berlin University Ranking Principles, it took 68th place among Ukrainian universities. It took 66th place among 240 universities in Ukraine and 7th place in the Dnipro region in the Consolidated Rating of Ukraine 2019.
The Ukrainian State University of Chemical Technology obtained a license to train bachelors in the specialties of nuclear power engineering and chemical technologies and engineering in 2018. The training of specialists in these areas is conducted in the Department of Energy of the Faculty of Computer Science and Engineering and the Department of Technology of Inorganic Substances and Ecology of the Faculty of Chemical Technology and Ecology.
In line with the previous HEI, this university provides students with the opportunity to choose independently the place of internship, as well as offers enterprises for internship, with which it closely cooperates.
Students have the opportunity to pass their internship with the involvement into the international educational projects, including the EU (Erasmus +). The geography of the countries of internship is Norway, Germany, Poland, France and China. The university is constantly implementing a number of state and international projects.
Higher State Educational Establishment “Kyiv Energy College” started personnel training in nuclear energy in 1973 in the specialty related to the installation and operation of steam generators at nuclear power plants.
Training takes place in the classrooms and laboratories equipped with all the necessary devices, models, testing benches, diagrams, simulators and technical tools. Practical classes are held in the fitting and mechanical, heat and power engineering, electrical, welding and installation workshops for instrumentation and control equipment.
RNPP Vocational School was constructed simultaneously with Rivne NPP. The institution trained its first students in 1982. It is currently the modern state institution of professional (vocational) education of certification level II. As a rule, it trains workers among graduates of general secondary educational institutions and retrains workers of Rivne nuclear power plant. More than 70 students graduate from the educational institution annually.
The admission of school graduates, as well as the professions of training in the vocational school directly depend on NPP personnel needs. For example, in 2020 the institution announced admission of graduates based on basic secondary education (nine classes) with a training period of three years in the specialty of locksmith for mounting of reactor-turbine equipment and locksmith for instrumentation and control equipment (electromechanics), and on the basis of complete general secondary education (11 classes) with a training period of one year in the specialty of locksmith for mounting of reactor and turbine equipment and turner.
NPP staff structure
Depending on the relation to production, personnel at the enterprise are divided into industrial and non-industrial personnel. Industrial personnel involves workers of the main and maintenance shops and the management apparatus. Non-industrial personnel involves workers employed in the non-industrial sphere, that is, the one that supports the activity of industrial personnel.
NPP industrial personnel are divided by the field of activity into operating personnel who provide maintenance of equipment for power generation, and maintenance personnel who conduct maintenance, modernization and maintenance of equipment, tools, devices, buildings and structures.
In turn, there are also personnel who are not part of operations personnel. They include administrative and managerial personnel engaged in the management and information support of production; production personnel working for administrative and managerial personnel, for example, workers in warehouses, as well as general shop personnel.
The main production functions at the nuclear power plant are performed by operations personnel who carry out round-the-clock maintenance of equipment and maintain process modes ensuring its safe and reliable operation. The operating personnel work in shifts consisting of permanent members. The shift consists of the operating personnel in the reactor, turbine, chemical, electrical shops, thermal automation and measurement shop, department for occupational safety. NPP shift supervisor, as well as unit shift supervisors and shop shift supervisors (or senior engineers on duty) ensure the management of the operating personnel.
First, the work with NPP personnel is aimed at safety culture, professional development and responsibility for safety, reliable and non-failure operation of equipment, avoiding injuries and radiation exposure in excess of permissible standards.
Professional personnel selection for a nuclear power plant is carried out by defining medical and psychophysiological contraindications for work in a certain specialty, particularly, by using different tests that allow establishing the speed of a person’s reactions, attentiveness degree, stress resistance, etc.
Professional personnel selection for a nuclear power plant is primarily necessary for operating personnel, since the lack of certain qualities among workers in this category can lead to emergencies. The qualities that are important for operating personnel from a professional point of view are attention, intelligence, emotional stability, decisiveness, etc.
Before being assigned to independent work, the operating personnel of a nuclear power plant passes the necessary theoretical training, on-the-job training, examination of knowledge of the rules, production and job descriptions, instructions on labor protection, radiation safety, etc.
Training of operating personnel on simulators and in the training centers that operate at each nuclear power plant is an integral part in the nuclear power industry. This is described in detail below.
Professional development of NPP specialists
Ukraine has enough material resources, a powerful scientific base and qualified operating personnel to maintain the position of the leading country in the development of a peaceful atom, but one should always necessary to remember about the prospect of production and its provision with personnel.
One of the important activity areas of the only NPP operator in Ukraine Energoatom is personnel training. Therefore, the company has developed a range of measures for students and graduates of universities aimed at improving the priority professional and technical skills and competencies of future specialists, as well as personal and business qualities.
The company provides a base for students to pass industrial and pre-diploma internship; ensures the participation of the company’s specialists in the training process such as lectures for students and teachers; ensures the participation of company representatives in the work of the state examination commissions for the defense of students’ diploma projects; in joint meetings, round tables, projects; transfers spent NPP equipment to the universities for educational purposes.
The personnel in the Energoatom divisions are recruited in accordance with the needs and plans of the economic and social development of the company.
The production (course III), technological (course IV) and pre-diploma (course V) internship of students is arranged at NPP sites to master the modern methods, forms of activity management, the specifics of technological process in accordance with the future specialty, as well as to shorten the adaptation period for a young specialist.
Each student in NPP subdivisions is assigned a specialist who is responsible for the internship, compliance with the rules of labor protection, fire safety, and on-site regime.
An important component in personnel training is continuous professional development. As we have already mentioned, NPP personnel are trained throughout their working life in the training centers that operate at each nuclear power plant, as well as in the vocational school, in the plant structural divisions and in the relevant industry organizations. The deputy director general of the separated subdivision for personnel manages the professional training system for employees.
The training center is a specialized structural subdivision at a nuclear power plant that arranges and conducts professional training of personnel in order to improve professional skills of employees, develop experience in a safe and reliable operation of nuclear power plants, and adhere to the safety culture principles.
The training centers are equipped with full-scale simulators that are prototypes of power units operated at nuclear power plants. Training on full-scale simulators allows bringing the training of the operating personnel in the main control room to a level that meets modern international standards.
An important part of activities performed in the training center is training and skill improvement of licensed personnel. In accordance with Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 1683 “On Approval of the Lists of Positions and Specialties of Personnel for the Operation of Nuclear Installations whose Training is Subject to Licensing, and Positions of Personnel who Directly Exercise Control Over the Reactor Installation at a Nuclear Power Plant” dated 8 November 2000, the following positions and specialties are subject to licensing: NPP shift supervisor, NPP stage shift supervisor, NPP unit shift supervisor, reactor shop shift supervisor, turbine shop shift supervisor, electrical shop shift supervisor, shift supervisor of the thermal automation and measurement shop, leading engineer in reactor control, leading engineer in unit control, leading engineer in turbine control.
Professional training is periodically conducted for different categories of nuclear specialists that includes lectures, practical classes, and examination sections to consolidate the knowledge.
Educational and methodological literature specially developed by instructors of the training centers is used for training. Specialists of the training centers also provide methodological support for personnel training, at workplaces.
Practical training of maintenance personnel is another important activity area in the training centers. With this objective, the training center and vocational school have developed and put into operation simulators that fully imitate real equipment and allow initial practical training and skill improvement immediately before maintenance. Employees of NPP energy and maintenance units pass practical training on simulators of flange joints, pumping equipment, on test benches with pipeline gates and valves, etc.
Simulator training of maintenance personnel during the overhaul period and immediately before refueling outage contributes to the development of stable skills in repair, maintains constant high preparedness to complex maintenance tasks and helps to reduce the dose load on personnel.
Special attention should be paid to the unique simulator complex for special training of maintenance personnel, which was developed at ZNPP that is one of the most successful projects in the field of nuclear safety implemented with the support of the European Commission.
The full-scale simulator complex fully reflects equipment in reactor loop 4 at VVER-1000 (V-320).
Not only Energoatom specialists are trained in the simulator complex for special training, but also personnel of foreign nuclear power plants, thermal power plants and other production enterprises with the same type of equipment.
Training of licensed personnel in direct control of NPP reactor
As we have already mentioned, the direct control of NPP reactor is carried out by licensed personnel on the basis of a license issued by the State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine. Such a license is issued for a period of two years with the right to renew it, and the rights under the license cannot be transferred or extended to another person.
In accordance with the Rules for Licensing the Activities of Personnel for the Direct Control of NPP Reactor Installation approved by Order of the State Nuclear Regulatory Committee of Ukraine (SNRCU) No. 185 dated 13 December 2004, an employee of a nuclear power plant who applies for the position of a licensed specialist, and a licensed specialist should meet the licensing requirements for health, admission to work at a nuclear installation and qualifications in order to obtain a license and during the validity of a license.
It is important that the candidate or licensed specialist should have the appropriate specialized education, work experience, and professional training. As for work experience, a specialist applying for a license should have experience of independent work in accordance with the job description in one of the following positions: licensed specialist at same-type NPP unit/units; at least two years of work in the positions of operating personnel that precedes the position of a licensed specialist, the last year of which should be at this NPP; at least three years in positions related to reactor operation maintenance or direct control of other nuclear installations.
The procedure for obtaining a license itself includes five stages, in particular, choosing and training of a candidate, knowledge examination in the field of legislation, standards and rules on nuclear and radiation safety, submission of relevant documents to SNRIU, their review by the regulatory body and its actual decision to issue or refuse in issuing a license.
Licensed personnel is trained on the basis of individual programs that are developed for a specific candidate and include, inter alia, the study of practical issues of compliance with safety requirements at industry enterprises and familiarization with the implementation of safety culture principles. In addition, a candidate should pass necessary theoretical, practical training (internship), simulator training in the skills of direct control of the reactor installation in the training center, examination of knowledge necessary to carry out licensed activities (during examinations for the position), and get practical skills in performing official duties for the implementation of licensed activities under the guidance and control of a licensed specialist.
You have probably already noticed that not everyone who applies for a license to operate the reactor will obtain it; however, it is quite conceivable that the hard work of a young specialist, constant skill improvement, a desire to self-development, responsibility, safety culture and other qualities that we have already discussed today show the path of growth from an ordinary walk down to a position of a leading engineer in reactor control. Moreover, this is no empty boast. Today, we can see real examples of this that are demonstrated by higher officials, unfortunately, these higher officials, who started once their path at work also from simple blue-collar occupations, are not in all institutions operating in the field of nuclear energy.
The following is worth mentioning in this context. Licensed personnel passes training and professional development and licensing at the expense of the operating organization or the state. Colossal funds and time are spent on training of such a specialist. Nevertheless, there is currently such a practice when licensed personnel are forced to change their workplace for unsatisfactory working conditions and invest in the development of the industry abroad.
Thus, Ukraine is actually training personnel for the world’s nuclear power plants. This is a serious unsolved problem now; therefore, in addition to high requirements for the training of a specialist, it is necessary to change the attitude towards the provision of appropriate working conditions and social guarantees for industry specialists.
Information from the Energoatom separated subdivisions, as well as official information from specialized higher educational institutions was used to prepare the article.
SSTC NRS Press Service jointly with Uatom.org Editorial Board