Nuclear reactor operators are responsible for the safe and efficient operation of nuclear reactors at public utility and industrial power plants. Reactor operators adjust the controls that position the nuclear material--referred to as rods--to control heat and the rate of power flow. They are responsible for monitoring gauges that measure heat, turbine speed, and rate of reaction.
Reactor operators respond to any alarms or abnormalities by finding the cause of these abnormalities and adjusting the controls until the reactor readings return to normal. They also conduct inspections of the control area and various other parts of the reactor to ensure safe operation.
Nuclear reactor operators also participate in regular scenarios and emergency drills that are mandated by the government. These drills often include actions like powering the reactor on and off, activating auxiliary generators, and emergency power. They also run drills that simulate equipment malfunctions.
To keep the power plant running efficiently, reactor operators communicate with dispatchers at power distribution centers. This allows the power plant to run at the capacity needed because it is not good for the reactor to waste energy or the system to have too little output.
The reactor operator also participates in facility maintenance. The operator might shut down equipment and switch to auxiliary units so that another part of the generation system can be maintained or repaired. During scheduled or unscheduled down time, a nuclear reactor operator will often take part in the physical maintenance or repair of the plant. Depending on their level of training, they might also take part in the process of adding or removing nuclear material.
A reactor operator must also be a good record keeper. They are expected to log gauge readings at appointed times or at the start of an incident. They also log changes in electricity transmission and changes in equipment, and keep track of inspections and repairs.