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« United States Naval Nuclear Power School | An Inside Look - Part I | Main | Various Topics » Nuclear Nightmare, Learning XHTML/CSS, Trying to Quit Coffee, Dog to Wed in Prague »

U.S. Naval Nuclear Power School | An Inside Look - Part II

Officers & the Nuclear Culture

United States nuclear-powered ballistic-missile submarine

This entry continued from » Part I

Far from being coddled, Nuclear officers were taken to task and held responsible.

Do you recall the fiasco at Abu Ghraib prison? .. the one where the officers in charge claimed ignorance? before fingering the enlisted folk? That would've never happened under Rickover's watch. He would've had their officer nuts hanging in his office by sunset.

Nobody told Rickover, "Sir, I uh, didn't know that was going on ..." .. uh, not if they wanted to keep their jobs. In Rickover's Navy, not knowing about something (ignorance) is *worse* than condoning it.

Not a single one of them had the balls to stand up and say, "That prison was my responsibility." Every one pointed the finger and claimed ignorance. Zero accountability.

If you research the case of the nuclear submarine that ran aground, you'll find they were given bad maps (said so in the 60 Minutes interview) .. which didn't include the underwater mountain. The Captain *still* took responsibility .. claiming he should've verified the maps .. by checking them against other sources.

How's *that* for a contrast with what we've seen from officers (in the news) from other military services? (But I digress. That stuff frosts my @ss, as you can probably tell.)

••••• today's entry continues below •••••

Rickover's Influence

Mistakes in the nuclear Navy were not tolerated (.. which is probably why incompetence bothers me so much). Excuses were a luxury none of us could afford.

Under the heading labeled "Controversy," the Wikipedia entry for Rickover says the following:

Hyperactive, political, blunt, confrontational, insulting, flamboyant, and an unexcelled workaholic who was always demanding of others – without regard for rank or position – as well as himself, Admiral Rickover was a thundering force of nature and lightning rod for controversy.

Moreover, he had "little tolerance for mediocrity, none for stupidity." "If a man is dumb," said a Chicago friend, "Rickover thinks he ought to be dead."

This is the guy who started and ran the Navy's nuclear propulsion program. Like I said, excuses were a luxury none of us could afford. We did our jobs and did them well. (Or we were replaced.) But as I said, the training program spared no expense.

Many books have been written about Rickover. His retirement party was attended by all living U.S. Presidents. (He served under 13 different POTUS's.)

Everything Else Easy By Comparison

Since being discharged (honorably, of course), I found everything that has followed to be comparatively easy. No matter what challenges life may bring, I feel confident facing them, knowing I've faced more difficult circumstances in the past (thanks to Rickover and his demanding program).

On my Discharge papers (DD-214), the nuclear program in which I served is described as » arduous (the Navy's own description). I didn't know what the word meant. Had to look it up. Here's what I found »

  1. difficult and tiring: requiring hard work or continuous physical effort
  2. steep or demanding: very difficult to traverse, endure, or overcome

The program is great for people who enjoy challenging themselves. Yet I've never recommended it .. to anyone. There are much easier ways to make a living.

For Masochists Only 

Now that I'm done, I'm happy I went thru it, and that I was able to survive. But I'd never do it again, not knowing what I know now. Much as I dig technology, and a good challenge, the Navy's nuclear program is for masochists only. Certainly not designed for fun.

But it has made me who I am. Maybe now you can understand why I enjoy the Bourne series so much. A guy is surprised by the things he knows and what he's able to do. And it's all due to some clandestine goverment program. You think I might be able to relate? (Can't wait for the Bourne Ultimatum to be released later this week.)

You *do* however, work with top-notch people in the nuclear program. (Won't find many dimwits running reactors.)


One last point » Some nuclear-trained people (that I worked with) could be considered elitists. In other words, they didn't associate with (looked down on) anyone 'cept other "nukes".

The Dog and I (especially the Dog) were the first to make friends with those outside our department (Engineering), and were actually ostracized by some senior clique-ish types for this. The Dog however, was never the type to care much about what others thought.

The Dog 

Of all the people I met in the military (over the course of my 6-year enlistment), there's only one I still stay in touch with » the Dog. He lives in NYC. (Cuz he feels most comfortable in urban environments.)

BTW » In a few days the Dog will be leaving for Prague .. where he'll be married (for the first time) .. to a girl from the Czech Republic, who he met in NYC. (She's much younger than the Dog .. ~20 years younger.)

If anybody deserves to be happy in a relationship, it's the Dog. He's such a great guy (with some issues, which he readily admits). From what I hear, she is better at making relationships work than the Dog. They've been together ~3 years.

I received an invitation to the wedding, but can't afford to go. The Dog understands. Heard Prague was beautiful .. not destroyed by WWII the way many other European cities were.

Dr. Wolf 

Of all the instructors I had at NPS, my favorite was Dr. Wolf. He was from Brooklyn, or the Bronx (.. one of those New York boroughs that begins with a 'B').

He taugh Math. (Believe his doctorate was from NYU.) Not very tall. Full salt-n-pepper beard, well trimmed. Oozed cool. Very charismatic. Not very military. Spoke with a distinct NY accent. Obviously knew his stuff. Very comfortable with the subject material. Enjoyed teaching. Made learning fun.

Near the end of some class (each 50 or 55 minutes long) .. he'd check his watch and say, "Put your books away. You don't have to know this." .. and continued teaching .. sometimes straight thru the break. Nobody left.

He'd usually share some wild, cutting-edge Physics .. that made our heads spin with theory. Serious "Whoa!" factor.

I liked Dr. Wolf cuz, where I grew up (and went to school) intelligence was never considered very cool. The coolest kids were usually not the brightest. I even had some kids wanting to kick my butt for reasons related to academics. So intelligence there could be considered a negative (something to hide).

Final Points

On a nuclear sub which carries ballistic missiles (the presence of which I can "neither confirm nor deny") the sailors who operate and maintain the reactor plant have nothing to do with the missiles.

Two different jobs. Handled by two different departments. In other words, nukes aren't experts on missiles.

In all the documentaries I've watched on nuclear submarines, I've never yet seen one where they take you back into the engineering spaces.

They simply show you the door, and say (voiceover), "Back there are the engineering spaces, where the reactor lives. For security reasons, we weren't allowed to film back there."

With that said, your average run-of-the-mill ballistic missile submarine carries more firepower than all the bombs dropped in all the wars since the beginning of time .. immemorial. (This is where a submarine sailor usually stands and salutes.)

Comparison with Non-Military Schools 

If I had to select one word to describe the Navy's nuclear program .. here it is » grueling. Now, is it (as the Wikipedia entry states) "one of the most difficult academic programs in the world"? Maybe so. Maybe so. But then, I have little to compare with.

For example, I never been to MIT, Hardvard Law, Wharton or Yale (like my brother). Are these schools difficult academically, or just difficult to get into?

The Dog went to Columbia (an Ivy League school) after getting out of the Navy .. said he held his own (in their Civil Engineeering program).

Regarding difficulty, I've always heard the Univ of Chicago was a meat grinder, academically speaking. I'd like to try that .. to see for myself how it compares.

If I were writing the Wikipedia intro for the Navy's nuclear power school, think I'd change the word difficult to demanding. No doubt about that.

The word difficult can mean different things to different people, especially where it concerns an academic program.

My best point of comparison (with non-military schools) came during a college semester in which I took Calculus (4-units), Statistics (3-units) & a 7-unit Chemistry class (the hard one, required for both medical & engineering students + lab).

Flexing Nuclear-powered Academic Muscles

I got the highest grade in all 3 classes. (Note » This semester was between jobs, when I wasn't working. Saved hardest classes for between-job periods.) And the professor who taught Statistics taught *two* classes that semester; he told me I got the highest grade in *both* classes.

In the Chemistry class, there was nobody even close to me. Only one other 'A' in the whole class. The mean was down around 55. Class taught by a lady-Ph.D. from India. Kids complained to the adminstrators. (It's a mandatory class for many degree paths.)

She gave the hardest test I'd ever taken. I mean, regarding the amount of brain power necesssary. Each question required serious calculations, often with mutiple parts. Afterwards I drove home and went to bed (at noon). Never done that before.

They claim the human brain uses 20% of your body's daily calorie-burn (energy). In 3 hours, I burned 2 days worth.

My average for that class was 94.5. Like I said, the class mean was around 55. Okay, enough of this shameless academic chest-pounding. And I should note that, in the Navy, Chemistry was my thing (I ran reactor water radio-chemistry daily) .. so I had an advatage over the other kids (as did the Dog at Columbia).

My Ph.D. prof for that class seemed interested in the reactor water radio-chemistry analyses I ran. I was interested in the dot on her forehead, and the interesting dresses (long, flowing, colorful) she wore during religious holidays.

Moreover, I hadn't taken any Math in years, and opted to bypass the Pre-Calculus class (despite everybody warning me not to. Now-a-days, the Pre-Calc class is mandatory.)

Speaking of Calculus, that class was my closest call. A tiny Asian girl sat in the back of the class. Her GPA was always slightly higher than mine .. the *whole* semester.

Every week or two, the prof would pass around a sheet that contained everyone's student ID number with our grades (both current & cumulative) listed alongside. Took me a while to figure out who it was that was ahead of me.

I would wait outside the door during break after an exam and ask her, "So, how'd you do?" She'd just giggle and walk on by. Never heard her say a single word the entire semester. For all I know, she spoke no English.

At the end of the year, the prof posted outside our room the grades for the final exam and our cummultive GPA. I know I didn't ace the final, but saw I scored a perfect 200 points. And I was the only one who scored 200. So I must led the curve, and I saw my cummulative GPA was the highest. I passed the little Aisan girl right at the end. Sweet!

Making the Decision to Go 

You will wish you were dead .. no, just kidding. =) 

Of course, the biggest point of comparison is that .. with the Navy school, you get a paycheck, too .. which is nice. Whereas you have to pay for your (non-military) college education. This can be a deciding factor for those not named Rockerfeller or Getty.

Always had an independent streak .. and wanted to do things myself. If I went to college, woulda had to grovel for tuition money. (Never been a good groveler.) Navy solved my problem. "Adios, folks. Keep your cash. See ya in 6 years. Ciao."

Many (Most?) of my college classes were taken while working 12-hours days. I used the GI Bill (the old one, the good one) to pay tuition. Took 10 years to finish my degree (most of it while working full-time + OT).

Didn't pursue the degree to earn more cash, as the company I worked for was already paying me senior-level engineer wages. No higher pay-grades existed. Rather, it was simply sibling rivalry .. since my brother had graduated from Yale (down the road from where we grew up), then earned his medical degree (from Tufts). 

"Are you the doctor's brother?" people would ask? "No," I'd answer. "The doctor is my brother." =) You know how our culture is enchanted with doctors.

Always been jealous of kids whose parents pay for their college education, who don't have to work while taking classes. Must be nice.


Something I'll never forget » hearing the announcement .. "Attention in the engineering spaces: the reactor is critical." (Reactor criticality is a function of neutron population. You control reactor power by controlling its neutron population.)

For more along these lines, here's a Google search preconfigured for the query » navy nuclear power school


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Comments (62)


Test comment.

Blog Reader:

I would never find your interesting BLOG without a new automatic browser I downloaded on top of my Firefox, developed by a new start-up www.TilTul.com . It automatically pop-up your Blog (Via Google Blog Search) when I browsed through www.military.com (Click on the BLOG Tab in the Linked lower window). It should be easier for a smart guy like you to figure out how to use those Linked-browser tricks.
If you can't, challenge your brother from the "Harward" Business school to try it out.

Herb Edmonds EM1(SS):

My NPS was at Mare Island in 1963, but never the less you have it described pretty well. It was a great experience.


My brother went to Yale, not Harvard Business school.


I went through the navy Nuclear Power program in 1984. I even wrote a book about my experiences. Available at amazon.com here: http://www.amazon.com/2190-Days-My-Navy-Adventure/dp/1598860402/ref=sr_1_1/104-0147431-8547936?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186082263&sr=8-1


Congrats on getting published. I read all the pages Amazon had posted (not the juicy stuff). Tell Amazon to demo the juicy stuff.

I got out about the time you went in .. about the time Rickover left. Always wondered if that made a difference.

I was ELT. The Dog was our emergency welder.

I linked to your book .. maybe it will help sales.

You forgot leap-year days .. at least one, maybe 2. I counted days, too. That's how I kept going. Altho it probably made it seem a lot longer. (Seemed like it took *forever* to get out.)

"Two-digit midget." .. "Tripping over dimes."


good story. How about posting about your Rickover interview?


Howdy from Chicago.

First and foremost I must say I greatly enjoy the writing style of your blog. Keep it up!

I just "swore in" on Wednesday to become a Navy nuke. Truth be told I still don't quite understand the purpose of a non-binding contract which can only be signed after 20+ hours of (paper)work. The feeling is similar to if at the end of your first week at a new job your boss were to ask you, "Do you want to work for us?"


22 Years old and signed up for something I know nothing about it. I found your blog while trying to remedy that particular situation. While possibly childish of me my main concern is actually the lifestyle of someone going from power school to prototype. Was it common to go out on the town at least once in a while?

I'm not exactly a "party animal" but I've met some of the modern day nukes and ,to be blunt, they're not exactly the cowboys of the US Military.

-Just another youngster anxious about being part of the nuclear program.


I was enlisted. Only officers were interviewed by Rickover.

Regarding a social-life at Prototype .. I can only speak for life in Idaho, for that's where I went, which is where they typically sent those who wanted to end up on the West coast.

When I was there, we worked 12-hours days on a rotation that went like this > 7-on, 1-off > 7-on, 2-off, then 7-on, 5-off. Each 7-day stretch was a different shift (hard to describe in writing). So we got off for basically 5 days (in a row) once a month.

And during that 5 days, we would go fishing, rafting, skiing, hiking, camping, and all kinds of fun outdoors stuff that is available in Idaho.

In Idaho, there is also a 2-hour bus-ride (each way). So every 12-hour day becomes a 16-hour day. They wouldn't let students drive their own cars (to work), cuz too many had fallen asleep at the wheel and killed themselves. Even staff were discouraged from driving their own cars to the work-site.

Idaho is beautiful, but 20-years behind the rest of the country, so "going out on the town" was not very appealing.

My friend Schmidty had a van, which was great for exploring the country. We would wake up in Wyoming, Utah, and everywhere inbetween.

My favorite time was a 5-day ski-trip to Grand Targhee ski resort (in Wyoming), where a few of the local girls were invited to bring along their kids (ages 3-5) .. to a multi-level chalet, right there on the mountain.

The girls cooked something yummy every night (such as a big turkey one night). We brought our own music, and ski'ed every day until dark.

One night, I sat in front of a raging fire with a little 3-year old girl sitting on my lap while I read her stories from her favorite books while it showed outside.

So you become friends with those who have the same work-schedule as you (same days off) .. not necessarily those who were friends at NPS.


I am about to begin (more like jumpstart from what I understand) my life in NPS here very shortly. I enjoyed reading your entries here and after reading, I was just curious to know if you think NPS and the following career helped open opportunites that might not have existed otherwise? Self gratification for making it through NPS is one thing, but how do you feel it prepared you for other opporunties in the long run? Would you change anything? I'm eager to begin and would like to hear what you could pass down to someone like me.


well, the nuclear industry is not thriving, as you probably know, tho it *does* look more appealing, now that the price of oil is so high.

like i said, everything afterwards is comparatively easy.

people tend to be impressed with anyone who has the ability to run a reactor plant, so, in that respect, future chances for employment tend to be enhanced.

but you would still need to educate yourself in the field of your choice. say, for example, you wanted to make movies .. you would still need to learn that.

I found this blog while I was searching for information on the curriculum taught at power school. I went through back in '94 (class 9305) when it was still in Orlando and then went through prototype out in Idaho. Man, that was a great place...too bad they shut it down.

I ended up getting picked up for a commissioning program after I finished prototype. Even to this day, I have never done anything even remotely as close to the difficulty level as completing the nuclear power program. Nothing.


I enjoyed reading your entries. I went through NPS when Dr. Wolf got fired. Smart guy but had to realize what would happen if you constantly go against the flow. I did 20. Enlisted/submarines for the first, commissioned as a CWO, did NR and SWO second half. Now working at a commercial BWR. If you miss the pressure of a demanding environment similar to NPS then go for our commercial SRO license.



I completed NPS in Orlando in 1978 (class 7709) and went onto A1W in Idaho. Serve on SSN then CGN--Did my Rickover interview when I was selected for NR1 (I completed my undergrad in Math during my 10 years active duty - He highlighted a lit course during my interview). Since departing nothing (this includes two Master's Degrees) compares.

Kevin Peterson:

Just looking around and stumbled onto the site. I was in Orlando NNPS 9006. Good memories, I went to prototype in Goose Creek. It wasn't consolidated at the time. I still keep in touch with a few guys who were on the Abe Lincoln. I'd love to here from you all who went through arond the same time. kjp5604@hotmail.com

Allan :

After a recent trip to SD I found this website. I went to NPS at Mare Island in '62, prototype at A1W, and stayed on as an instructor there until shipped out to serve last year on DLGN25. Never found anything as hard until in the Phd program in physics at U. of Colorado. Lots of good memories of people in the program.


Heh, stumbled across this blog while using Radified Guides. I got dropped 17th week from NNPS (Class 7902). Not academic... was holding my own despite both recommended and mandatory study hours being imposed. Came into class 2 hours late one day and was busted in rank, kicked out of school and deemed 'militarily unreliable'. "If you can't be counted upon to follow an order to arrive at class on time, then you cannot be depended upon to follow an order to scram a nuclear reactor in an emergency situation."
--If I'm awake I can.
Three years later I was the work center supervisor for the Catapult and Arresting Gear Electricians on board an aircraft carrier. On the flight deck (where no one can hear you scream) I would occasionally salute the pilots as they were launching and yell "I'm militarily unreliable and that's my catapult you're launching from. Have a nice flight, SIR!" Some personal satisfaction gained from that. Today I work as an electronic controls technician for a major manufacturer. Second shift...lol. Really enjoyed your site and insight.


Hey, Rad.

Yep, wouldn't trade the experience for anything; wouldn't do it again for anything. Man, your blog is excellent reading. It really bought back menories and was quite enjoyable. I'm old school but I honestly don't think that matters much when talking about Naval Nuclear Training.

I went to ET"A" school at Treasure Island in 1969 then NPS at Bainbridge, MD followed by proptotype at Schenectady, NY. Spent the next four years on USSN George Washington Carver and a brief stint on USSN Pargo as a RO (reactor operator). Got out and have worked as a consultant fluids engineer for Chevron for 26 years, easiest job in the world!

All you young guys going in, buckle down and have fun. Kick ass and take names. You are making your own way in life and it cannot be taken away! I managed a few beers and trips along the way. Your Nuclear family will be very tight! :-)

Thanks again,

steve moore:

For those of you wondering, I went to power school in 79 and then was staff from 94-97. Power school academically is the same today as when I went through but it is harder in another aspect. The military is more demanding today. The sailors had tougher personal inspections, barracks inspections, and physical readiness requirements. For those of you thinking this generation is lost I was personally proud of the kids coming through power school in the late 90's. We demanded higher standards than I had to have and they delivered. There are no dope smokers (like we were). You can't get away with it. Yes you can party, if you are 21 and it doesn't get in the way of doing your job. I partied my @ss off in NPS. I also studied hard. You could never get away with what we did in NPS today!

steve moore:

BTW, I was just reading that 50 % of all civilian RO's will be retiring in the next 10 years. Couple that with 9 new licenses and 7 more on the horizon and you have a "critical" (no pun intended) shortage of power plant operators. The experts are saying that Navy Nucs are going to be in demand for nuclear power again.
NNPS will prepare you for jobs in many fields. Since getting out after 20 years (in 1998) I have worked in technical training at a Fiber Optic Manufacturing Plant, Maintenance in a Synthetic Wine Bottle Cork plant, and currently in training at a large vinyl window and door manufacturer. I incorporate many aspects of what I learned at NNPS and the program into our training program here.

steve moore:

btw, I had Dr. Wolf too. He was way too cool! Surprised to hear about his firing. For sure not your typical nuc!


Great blog -- I really enjoyed reading it. I was in class 8701 in Orlando and 8702 at S3G in Ballston Spa. Like you, there is no way in hell that I would recommend this program to anyone. Knowing what I know now, I would not go into the Navy as a nuc. However, I would never give up the training and the experiences that I have had because of the program. I have applied my ability to "nuc things out" to my civilian life and it has come in handy. My Navy experience got me my current job in the movie industry. The woman who hired me said, "If you can run nuclear power plants, you can certainly work here!"


I graduated from NPS with the class of 0503-6. I have to agree with everything that was said: given the structure of the program there isn't much room for change- even with respect to culture.

As far as the level of difficulty goes nothing could ever compare to NPS. As a point of comparision: my degree from Georgia Tech is probably still stuffed in my mom's basement. My certificate from NPS is and always will be on the wall of any office I work out from.


I'm looking for anyone who attended NNPS with Todd Breed or served with him in the Navy during the 90s. Please email em at cmberube@yahoo.com.



I like the blog. I was in class 0302. I'm a surface EM on a west coast ship. I read that you were wondering if things have changed since Rickover left. I would say the answer is a definite yes. The quality of people is going down. They get pushed through school on the basis that the fleet will kick them out if they can't handle it. (They don't-they kept a girl who went after other watchstanders with a DC mall/axe-just transferred her from M div to RM div) The school is still intense. It's still a challenge. But now, even if you can't meet the challenge, if you "try" hard enough, they'll let you "pass" your ac board and send you on. It's just a little more painful (more study hours involved). I'm sick of people coming from protoype and going dinq, not being able to qualify Senior in Rate, and in general, just sucking. If they can't qualify SIR, because they are too "immature" why the heck are they standing watch in a nuclear power plant? Sorry, things are particularly sad on this ship now. Turns out when you have poor performers like these, ORSE gives you grades like BAM.


For non-nuclear readers:

ORSE = Operational Reactors Safeguards Exam .. this is your annual exam (for the entire Engineering dept.). A team comes from Washington to make sure you can safely and effectively run the reactor plant. Grades are typically Average, Above average, or Below average. Below ave is very bad. Means your life suks for the next year.

I was on a sub. Subs had no women .. at all. We never had women in school. Wonder when they started letting women in. (That would've been cool.)

Classes ar designed > YYMM.

M Div = Machinery division, which is part of the Engineering dept.

RM = RadioMan (I think .. it's been a while)

EM = Electrician's Mate, or Electrical Plant operator (or called a 'one-wire').

Ac board = academic review board. Means you're failing or close to it.


What can I say about being a nuke. Well, did a year of college before joining and found it easy. Got to power school and was considered "a rock". I always was considered pretty smart, power school made me feel really dumb. I realize now why, I hated the navy so much and had no interest whatsoever in what was being taught it was impossible for me to learn it. Nevertheless, I somehow passed at near the bottom of my class(9440 Orlando, then Charleston) and went on to M-Div on the last nuclear powered cruiser in the Navy (USS California, CGN-36). I agree with what was said above in that I personally hated my six years in the Navy and would not reccomend it, but am very proud of completing the program and met some great people. I went on to graduate college after the navy Cum Laude (with no effort, would have been Magna Cum Luade with a litte effort). Now, I am a farmer and want to do nothing else. But, even growing up working my ass off on the farm, my experience in the nuclear navy has made me so much more. I don't know if I would be the worker I am today without the Nuke experience. It has given me if nothing else, the ability to put up with so much crap, be so patient, to think things through, and to not be afraid to follow direction and seek advice. If someone were to ask me if they should do it, I would have to say no, but if you can handle the six years you will be a better person when you leave.


Thanks for posting Euge. What you said about .. "It has given me if nothing else, the ability to put
up with so much crap, be so patient, to think things through.." really rang true.


Wow, a bunch of kids. ET-A School, Great Lakes 1966, NPS Vallejo, 1997, NPTU West Milton, DIG plant, then as an RO, on to the USS Bainbridge as she was completing her first refueling in Vallejo 1968-70. I turned down orders to Idaho Falls and took sea duty on the USS Decatur 1970-72. I would have stayed in if the Navy would have dropped my Nuc designation. They didn't, I left

I remember Rickover well, he would show up with his henchmen, all dressed in dark blue or black suits. Then it would start. I remember once when the Admiral told the Chief Engineer to go into the bulges and recover something that caught Rickover's eye. The Chief Engineer was in his whites.

The school was not that hard for me. Once in the fleet, the hours were terrible. If we were lucky three section duty in port, underway it was four and eights plus normal working hours plus quals.

Sorry to hear that people are being pushed through. It can only lead trouble. That is not to say there were no incidents on Bainbridge, but they were not from lack of training or duty.

All that said, I can still feel the awe I had standing watch during bumper drills. The power, the noise, the vibration as the ship went from dead stop to flank as fast as the throttles could be opened. Looking at the gauges and dials moving as the ship and her heart came to life. Truly an amazing experience.

Michel Coats:

Great blog. I was in class 8007, did prototype in Ballston Spa, and then went to the 632 boat out of Kings Bay. I was a reactor operator, and had the opportunity to go back as LPO at MARF before becoming an instructor at ETMS school in Ballston Spa (is it still there??).

Today I am part owner in an engineering services company in Tampa, and can honestly say that without the Nuc program, there is no way I could have achieved the things I have since getting out of the Navy in 1988.

I have enjoyed reading the stories on here...they sure bring back memories. I stil count the day that I passed the comp at Nuc school as one of the happiest days of my life (I also got totally HAMMERED that night to celebrate). Can't say I miss the boat too much....but it was an experience...:)

Dirk Barthelow:

Interesting reading. I was Naval Nuclear Power as well. Orlando, FL class 8307-13. Idaho Falls for prototype. Served 4 years on USS Carl Vinson CVN-70 out of Alameda, CA. as MM3. Those on the Chucky V who were less than thrilled with their role would call it "Mobile Chernobyl" as Chernobyl ocurred while I was aboard. Was fascinated by the mystery of Nuclear Power going in. Did well at start of NPS then, as I realized it's a fancy water heater, kinda lost it's 'aura' I started sliding academically. Great to hear others stories. Met many great people in the program. As an aside, Rad, RM in Nuke speak is Reactor Mechanical - the MM side. RM as a rating is Radioman.


I had to chuckle a few times reading your blog. Terms like "two-five and survive" and "keywords and tricky phases" brought back a few memories. I was in NPS Orlando in 1979 and Balston Spa in 1979-80 (S3G). I went on to serve four years on the USS Nimitz 1980-84 as an EM. I think that most people that have gone through all of that have had the same feeling that I have had over the years when someone asks you "what did you do in the Navy?". I usually just give a deep sigh and say, "I was an electrician".

It's funny but 30 years ago when I had the opportunity to extend for two years with a paygrade increase and get a signing bonus of $20,000 and didn't think it was worth it. Somehow, now I think it would be worth it but I was young and single then.

Hi everyone, I have good news for ya.
I have one t-shirt of this training center, if anyone from the school interested in getting it for a memorabilia or just for collection,
please e-mail me.
I upload it into my homepage, just go there if you want to see it.


THAT WAS GREAT!-------Thanks bud, my fave part was reading about the Dogbrother. I have one right now and I would do anything for her. So I guess she's a Dogsister. After being Nuke, I was offered the ROTC way up. So that's what I'm doing. Thanks dawg.


I retired after 22 years as a conventional surface ET. NucPwr was an option when I came joined in 1977 but I turned down the opportunity - I wanted to solder rather than glow. Never regretted my decision - until one day one of my nephews became interested in the Navy, and then with the Nuclear Power program.

I knew some of the tribulations of NPS from having neighbors who were Nucs and having ETs working for me who were prior Nucs, but I was out of my league to council my nephew what to expect from his decision; anything '.navy.mil' I took as propaganda vice information.

Thank you, and all who posted their comments and experiences here. I am going to recommend my nephew reads this and other intelligent Blogs to prepare himself mentally for what is in store for him. I have high confidence he will succeed.


I'm about to go into the Navy, Nuclear program interested me alot...the pay is very tempting but I knew I had to do some research before I jumped in. I've read almost every type of blog on it, everyone says it's supremely difficult. I am a man of intelligence, but after reading everything I'm starting to question whether or not I should put myself to the test...knowing that failure means demotion to Boatswain, or some other menial position. I've told myself I wouldn't let that happen, that I would be determined to overcome. I've been told I'm an incredibly intelligent person...I don't have the 20 year old ego so I don't consider myself to be all that smart. Entering the Nuclear program would be to prove to myself that I am intelligent...my question would be...should I? Or should I run for the hills right now and never look back? :) But it's the only job any branch of the military offers that even piqued my interest and didn't look boring, and...I want to have a reason to have an ego, and if I can become a Nuke I can become elite...could finally raise my head with pride knowing I accomplished something meaningful, rather than just going through the motions like I do now. I am 20 years old, and I figure this is the deciding moment for the rest of my life. To Nuke or Not to Nuke? That is my question...

Michael Hardy:

Great Blog, really brought back some great memories. I was in class 8006, Orlando. Prototype training at S1C in Windsor Locks, CT. Later went to the USS Scamp (SSN 588) and got into a diving training accident. Medically retired in 1983. Everything that you said was true, it was brutal, but I would go back in a second. For those who are thinking of taking the plunge...if you enjoy a challenge, GO FOR IT. Life really sucks when you are 75 and look back never having been challenged in your life, or lack of life, that is. Met some incredible people, where is Bobby Lane and Basil Darmiento? I keep in touch with Jeff Leech and Kenny Walz. Thanks for showing me how to use the unused 80%.


I was looking into the nuclear power program as well, seeing it as appealing and an opportunity for personal growth. I'm faced with the decision to go or not to go, and am coming to that age where I'm not able to go anymore. But after seeing all this being said, I hate to be negative, but I really don't want to go anymore. I want to further my education, and the job's nature restricts me of that. I'll be able to have class for two years prior, but what about after? It's not a great deal after all, at least for myself who's not looking for adventure, but a way of living with income and a chance to enhance my credentials. I would want a job that I would serve 20 years in to retire, or a 4 year job, not a strict job such as this.

May those who still want to go after reading all this be proud. This is something absolutely astounding to accomplish. It's like the Navy SEALS, only with the mind. Whatever my decision may be, this article has certainly made me want to think about this much longer than wanting to join in a couple days from now. Besides that, if I do go, at least I'd go with more expectancy and strength.


Coventional steam powered sailor here, DDG4.
Came along side the USS Bainbridge to highline mail and movies.
Seas were nearly dead flat in the Caribbean.

Our Captain challenged the Bainbridge to a drag race (rather unfairly since he had all the boilers on the line).

When the highline came down the race was on.
Our ship badly beat the Bainbridge out of the hole, just left her sitting there.

About a mile or so later we were doing max speed about 30 knots.
The Bainbridge came by us like we were standing still, had to be doing in excess of 40 knots.

Nick Bialecki:

Great post I love the part where you say "If anybody deserves to be happy in a relationship, it's the Dog. He's such a great guy (with some issues, which he readily admits)."

Marty Angell (Angel):

I'm trying to locate IC2 (SS) Pasnik from 64-4. We were in the augmented class together. He helped me graduate. I was trigonometry ignorant when I got there and he took 2 of us each night from 7 to whenever and made us understand it. I just wanted to thank him.


I like your post, particularly the "for masochists only" statement. I've moved into the information technology field, but the nuclear propulsion training and work experience have been an invaluable foundation for my life and career.


My company commander (1980) was a ET Nuke. Found this fact last week. Impressive naval career. Command Master Chief when he retired. My former company commander posted his bio on the Internet. It seems he had a short career in nuclear power. Why would the navy spend the time and money on a sailor for just a few years of duty as a reactor operator? Can a sailor opt out of nuke program after finishing nuke training etc?


I was an ELT. I did NPS in Florida and Idaho Falls Prototype..was assigned to 688 class sub. I did my required 8 year contract (6 years active duty + 2 years inactive duty..ie..Naval Reserve).

As far as I know, once you are crowned a Nuc, you can't "opt out" - just because you want to.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few possible ways not be a Nuc any more. With the exception of winning the lottery, I don't recommend any of these. However, I do like chocolate ice cream!:

1. Death
2. You decide to do something bad to force yourself to get kicked out. For example, you go UA (Unauthorized Absence)
3. The Navy decides to de-Nuc you for whatever the reason (something you did they don't like. For example, eating a bowel of chocolate ice cream while on watch - though they may just send you to Captain's Mast for this..who knows).
4. You win the lottery and become a millionaire and request to leave the Navy. Not guaranteed but it wouldn't hurt to ask.

Basically, something of a "unfitting" nature has to happen to you. That's my guess.

Again, I fully recommend that you "suck it up", and follow the rules and do your best. It's a relatively small portion of your life - so make the best of it.


Just was curious not obsessed about the issue.

I am proud of my company commander. Command Master Chief in 20 years. My company comander was an E-5 when I started bootcamp and avanced to E-6 when I graduated bootcamp.


I was at NPS Orlando back in 1981. Left ET "A" school at Great Lakes in the first part of 1981. -50F chill factor when I left and arrived in Orlando still wearing my heavy wool uniform and 2 sets of thermal underwear... Everyone at the airport was wearing tank tops and shorts... The ice was just finally starting to melt from my beard... NPS was rough, but after getting out of the Navy and dropping back into college, I found getting my BS and MS degrees quite a bit easier... Never really used my Navy training after getting out though...


Class 7906. I wouldn't trade the experience but I would never do it again if I had to go back. I remember the first time I saw the Russian coast from my SSN out of Pearl. If you had told me then that I would work in Russia one day (2006 to 2009) and be engaged to a beautiful Russian lady, I would have said you were crazy. I also went to college after my 9 years (horrible GI bill $5400 max) and graduated with a 3.7 in engineering and then went on for my MBA. Never would have been possible without the NPS discipline. I miss the guys a lot but not the program.


I am a 'Graduate' of the US Naval Nuclear Power Program, going on 30+ years ago. I went to Nuke school in Orlando (LOVED IT). I was one of the 'smart' ones in Section 1. Then went to INEL, Idaho Falls, ID, at S5G. "LOVED IT). BUT, I hated the Sub I was assigned to. It was 'experimental' and nothing worked, except the Nukes. Forward crew was always off, and we weren't.
AS far as the education: Second to NONE! After I got out, I went to College: Made honor roll every semester, kids, yes kids, would come up to me and ask what classes I had got signed up for, so they could transfer to another one. And, I made it into Medical School. I was 'a problem' student. If, someone gave crap information, I set 'em straight. Called into the Med School Dean's office and was told "I had made one of my fellow students fcry'. My response was 'I'm not going to practice medicine with someone who can't get their facts straight'.
And, speaking of Admiral Rickover.. my last year in Med SChool, I did my Sub-I with Dr. Dorin, Internal Medicine. One day he was asking all the 4th Year Med Students, and Residents what we did before medical school. Almost all answered "School". I answered 'US Navy'. He asked what I did, and I told him I worked for 'Uncle Hymie'. HE then looked at me and said "What?!" (Yes question and exclamation). I then told him I was a Nuclear Reactor Operator for Rear Admiral Hyman Rickover, and that all Nukes referred to the Admiral as 'Uncle Hymie'. He then told me "I'm Admiral Rickover's nephew." (Oh My GOD) I saw my Internal Medicine Sub-I eval going in the toilet. He then said "Glad to meet ya. My Uncle told me all about ya. You're as smart as he said." (This a no-shitter) Dr. Dorin still works at The VA Med Center in Albuquerque, NM, and he then told everyone else, including the residents, that they now had a standard to meet, and I'd be a fine doctor. (Ah, a warm and fuzzy). My Med School class was asked to fill out an eval of "How hard was Medical School" And I replied "Not near as hard as Naval Nuclear Power School." "This was easy." Needless to say, I got called into the Dean's office again, BUT graduated and am now a fully licensed Physician. Respectfully; Shane B. Russell-Jenkins, ETN3, Nuclear Reactor Operator.

Jeffery Morgan:

"Mistakes in the nuclear Navy were not tolerated." This is a very bold statement. There may be a room for mistake but the room for mistake should not be in the nuclear area since they are handling a very delicate issue. I am doing a project on genetic engineering essays.


How 'bout we try on the following set of statements? » Fuck-ups were not tolerated. Military nuclear plant operators who make mistakes could be considered fuck-ups. Ergo ipso facto » mistakes were not tolerated.

I am not trying to make rigorous statements, but rather merely convey a general 'feel' .. for the reader who has never been.

I probably should point out, also, how you are the *first* to comment on the statement in question .. and there have been MANY who came thru program and commented .. and who did not view that particular statement as worthy of comment.

I would contend that .. there is a REASON for that. =)

Surely you see the need to filter fuck-ups.

November 26, 2012
San Diego county

David E Stryker:

I was in Class 8203 at Orlando NPS. I loved it! Loved the base loved the girls at the NTC in Orlando loved the locals. Had a great experience in the U.S. Nuclear Navy


I taught at NNPS in Orlando from 1982 through 1986; Enlisted courses first two years; then officer courses the second two years. Without question, when I look back on that time, and the quality of the people I worked with (both as students and fellow staff), I'm drawing the conclusion that my time in the Navy was probably the best work environment I will ever experience. Nothing in the civilian environment compares -- the integrity and intelligence of the people is unparalleled. Oh, and by the time I interviewed with Rickover (1982), in my opinion, he was becoming senile.....my interview was just creepy.


I was an NNPS graduate from 85' (class 8504) and INEL S1W. The final oral board was the most difficult test I ever took.. almost 5 hrs. It was you and a chalkboard but the best feeling I ever had in my life was when the officers reached across the table and congratulated me on becoming a Nuc. I'll never forget that feeling.
Orlando was awesome and to all the female boots' that graduated on Friday nights at the e-club... Thank you for the Beer!... Uncle Hymie (a.k.a Papa Nuke) or Admiral Rickover's Navy will always and forever be ingrained in my soul. I will always feel fortunate to be part of that history. R.I.P. Admiral.
During NNPS training I did not appreciate the change the Navy accomplished with me. I can remember being selected for officer training and for the first time being mixed with other Fleete's OMG... I remember the 80's, Tom Cruise with Top Gun and how everyone wanted"Jets". My last interview with the CO for the final recommendations was what sealed it for me... I had aced all my academic courses (easily with no effort) during the interview he asked what I wanted as my career as a Naval officer. I responded, "I want to drive boats sir". He responded "you will have to go through NNPS again". To which I responded, "I'm ready". He asked "you don't want to fly a jet". I responded, "Its not that I am afraid of flying because I'm not. I love the life of a submariner and I have something to truly contribute driving boats rather than flying a jet for the Navy" he responded "You are the first swinging d!ck that has come into my office not wanting to fly a jet (F-14's)". I was the only Highly Recommended candidate.
In college I studied Mathematics and I remember taking 15 credits the first semester, 18 the next and then asking my advisor to allow 22 credit semester hr. course load. The following semester I had to get the approval from the dean when I took a 24 credit semester hrs. while working as a tutor for the school. My GPA was 3.74 (Damn required Literature courses!... drove down my GPA).


I read the posts here and thought I would add my own history and view point. I am a lot older than most on here so my view will be different because the program was different back then. I read one comment about going to Orlando (when the dinosaurs roamed...) and laughed since when I was in Orlando didn't exist, well at least the school didn't.

I served from 1973 to 1979. Wanted to go to college but couldn't afford it and since my dad had been a Marine Raider in WWII I decided to go in the service and use GI Bill when I got out. Nuke school and Navy (my dad had no use for the Army) came out almost immediately as the most challenging thing I could face so I went for it.

I was initially classified EM but half way through A school I requested a transfer to ET (which is what I wanted) and since I was blowing the school away I got the transfer and restarted A school completing it and then A3 radar school before going to the fleet to await Nuke Theory to start in Mare Island.

I was in section 13 (which back then was the top and section 1 was the bottom) made up of all ET's. I know a couple of guys had to do extra study hours but I never did and I don't think most guys did. Of course back then there was very little calculus required so it might have been easier than more recent classes. Heck we didn't even have calculators - just slide rules - I am talking old here. :) I think the most complex thing I remember from that school was Mollier diagrams. I am saying this because there has been a lot of talk on here that nuke training was the hardest thing they had run into in their lives. That has not been my experience.

From there I went to Idaho and studied at A1W. I finished 4 weeks early by passing the oral exam given to you by teachers from one of the other crews (we had 4 crews A, B, C, D - I was on D). Again the material was not hard and consisted mostly of memorizing things not really understanding, though the chemistry was fun - specifically the interaction of sodium di- and tri- phosphates and their transitions to equilibrium due to being in an ionizing field - I doubt this is classified anymore but if it is the blog owner should feel free to delete that reference). From there I went to the Nimitz and did the usual rotating shift work with 4 hours of study crammed between two of them.
I never found the material difficult but I do admit the hours they made you keep were arduous (a great word by the way).

After the Navy I went on to earn a BA and MA in Physics and worked for a short time at Newport News doing submarine overhaul systems analysis to research the idea of extending the time between overhauls to better coincide with the refuel schedule.

I think I learned more physics in my first year of college and more math in the first two calculus classes I took in that same time, than I learned in all of my time in the Nuke program. But maybe times are different now, and maybe the school is a lot tougher, but then too is the material at Universities. I am in no position to know if the gap has closed or not. Just offering my view point.

Don't want go be identified but guys this ain't no shit!:

I don't want you to know who I am because of who I am today but if you knew me then you will know who I am by the following description.

I did the program 86-95. NUC Monkey mate onboard HOTB & the dub. It sucked big hairy ass donkey balls.

I will say this I am a doctor these days and I went to 2 different Ivy League schools. Those schools were extremely difficult however they were easy compared to the bullshit as a glow worm.

In the Nuc program it was not just the Academics that trip you up its the fucking mind games that being around mentally fucked up genius Nucs 24 hours a day 7 days a week for up to 6 months at a time can stress your mind with in such close quarters.

It's the littlest crap that gets to you! Hey man that's the third shit you took today! Why are you counting? Yes I am because we are running out of shit paper and one of you fuckers cut up your dungarees to wipe your ass with then tried to flush your shit soaked material only to seize the fucking blades of the CHT pump. This meant that Bender and the the other crazy fuck HTs had to attach a fireman hose to free the clog.

Pressure built up to the point behind the week old shit plug due to Pascal's law (a pressure applied to the surface of an enclosed fluid at rest is distributed equally and undiminished throughout the fluid and to the walls of the container) and eventually it had to go somewhere.

The weakest link was the footlong compressed shit slug which blew out the commode entrance in the stall at 125 pounds per square inch into the bulkhead above where I was sitting playing my fucking guitar!

It went splat! I out rank you NUB! Start cleaning! That incident gave me PTSD!

denny weaver:

What a nice post! I graduated class 7408 (Mare Island) S1W, USS Haddo (SSN-604). Exited after 6 & chose another path.
I"m currently Captain for a major airline.

eric ritenour:

Dick B. I too was in Nuke school class 8307 -section 10 MM. After that I went to MARF (NY) prototype and then to John C Calhoun (SSBN 630) in Charleston. Got out in 1988 never reenlisted stayed an E4 (MM3 SS) the whole time. They used to call me "Master 3rd of the Navy" I was released on a medical due to allergies mostly to the lead based paint and diesel fuel) moved to Atlanta went to Ga Tech BSME MSME (top of my class) master thesis in fluid flow during LOCA accidents. THe VA paid all my tuition
Now I teach high school/college physics in Atlanta. I didn't really like the nuclear trained janitor aspect of the being enlisted so I got out to go college and kicked ass there. GT was harder than nuc school but easier in that after nuke school I could handle anything

EMC(SS)Marion N. Cothran Jr.:

Have read with much enjoyment all the inputs. To say that this brought back memories would be an understatement. I was in the Nuclear Power program and attended NPS at Mare Island in 1970. To Idaho Falls, ID. While there my daughter became very ill and after weeks of concern I meet with the CO. I wanted very much to stay in the program but the CO made the decision that I would be, under the circumstances, released from the program and sent to the fleet. The events of my military career proved that the CO was a very wise man and father.

I was able to go on to submarine school at New London. From there I served aboard the USS Bang SS385. The Bang was a World War II submarine one of the old diesel boats from WWII. 289 feet long 32 feet high one level with 104 enlisted and officers.

I qualified and became a Submarine Sailor. The best years of my 20 year military career.

To say that this old boy from northeast Alabama was able to accomplish what was demanded of me in the Nuclear Power school and submarined duty cannot be expressed in words. I have always walked proudly as a Navy man being able to say that I was part of the top 2% of Navy selection for these programs.

I fully believe that my Navy education got me the job that as far as I know makes me the only Navy man in the state of Alabama who can say he did.

During the Ford and Carter administration I was selected and carried the title of Supervisor Emergency Relocation Complex White House, Washington, D.C. To be able to say that in the event of a national emergency I a USN enlisted submarine trained sailor would tell the president of the United States what to do in the event of an emergency at the White House was an honor is an understatement.

To all NP sailors we earned the title to be called the best and brightest in USN. A title that I will take to my grave with pride and honor.


Got a few chuckles reading though the comments. I went to Bainbridge, MD for Nuc school in '72. We used the old WWII army buildings as classrooms there and used slipsticks for our classes. Went to West Milton, NY for prototype on the S3G reactor. Was I ever glad to leave the "Green Weenie" in the rearview mirror as I left for the last time.

We used to call the Nuc program a $20,000 education shoved up your a$$ a nickel at a time.

Dennis Varnau:

Can't post. Internal Server Error. Mail returned from webmaster@radified.com


Went through NPS at Mare Island in early 1970. Remember football games on Saturdays and the chow cattle cars. Went to protoype at West Milton (S3G) and ELT School. Saw Richover there. Was assigned to the Big E. Spent most of my time in the Aft Reactor Group.

I've reviewed the blog post on "US Naval Nuclear Power School: Inside Look (Part 2)" on Radified's website, and I'd like to share my insights. Your detailed account of the US Naval Nuclear Power School offers readers a fascinating glimpse into the rigorous training and education that naval personnel undergo.

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