A nuclear power plant offers a more sustainable alternative to fossil fuel-based energy, but fission reactors require expert management to avert accidents. Memories of the carnage in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki still haunt many, raising fears of modern-day nuclear holocaust. However, while the events at Three Mile Island, Chornobyl and Fukushima were cause for concern, the resulting fatalities were mercifully few.
However, despite the continuing public wariness about atomic power, fossil fuel-powered plants are consistently responsible for more fatalities annually than were due to fission reactors during their entire history. For the record, it is almost 70 years since the world’s first nuclear power station was commissioned in the Russian city of Obninsk and connected to the Moscow grid.
That may seem an impressive record, but one should never trivialise the potential dangers involved when initiating and maintaining a controlled nuclear reaction. The industry’s safety record is due to the stringent control measures applied by its trained and experienced operators and engineers. Apart from the high construction costs and the extremely lengthy processes of completion and commissioning, the most significant obstacle for a new power plant is recruiting and training new operators.
Training Options in a Nuclear Power Plant
Many would have had their first taste of driving a car when their mom or dad handed them the keys in a deserted car park. The philosophy is simple. If there’s nothing around, you can’t crash into it. Later, their instructor may have relied on duplicate controls for similar reasons when providing professional tuition.
By contrast, in any power station, it may not be the best idea to rely on a trainer to step in if a novice operator should make an error. This approach is not only risky, but it can also be highly unnerving for the trainee. Such mistakes can have consequences. At best, they could result in power surges or outages. At worst, they
could cause a core meltdown and the release of radioactive material into the plant and the surrounding area. So, what’s the alternative? New operators need to be thoroughly trained before they can be allowed to work unsupervised. Today, many nuclear power plant operators use simulated workplace scenarios to gain practical experience.
Well, why not? Airline pilots have been doing this since 1954 when United Airlines purchased the first four audiovisual, moveable flight simulators from Curtiss-Wright for $3 million. A detailed reconstruction of an aircraft flight deck, complete with every single control and gauge, allowed the pilot to rehearse every action required from takeoff to landing and to see, hear and feel the results.
Impressed? A similar option is now available to nuclear power plant operators. It costs only a minute fraction of the sophisticated UA unit as its simulations are generated by a bespoke software package and run on a personal computer. Also, according to your needs, the on-screen visuals can be photorealistic 3D replicas of your workplace, accurate in every detail or a more generic layout where the simulated controls perform the expected functions despite their less familiar appearance.
Why Entrust Your Nuclear Power Plant Training to a Computer Program?
Teaching the theoretical aspects of nuclear energy production poses no significant problems. Instructors now have animated models and other visual aids to assist them. However, on-the-job practical training is, at best, painfully slow, and at worst, it could even be hazardous. By contrast, providing a trainee operator with a simulated challenge can pose no risk to anyone, even if the learner should mishandle it.
In addition to being an inherently safer option, a well-designed training simulator offers several other valuable benefits.
- A More Compelling Learning Experience: Think of a training simulation as a specialised computer game. Both young people and adults agree it’s hard to put a game console down once you’ve started shooting aliens. A live instructor can never achieve that magnetic and immersive experience.
- Shorter Learning Curve with Improved Retention: Knowing their mistakes have no real-world consequences encourages learners to repeat tasks as often as they need to ensure they are never forgotten.
- A More Cost-Effective Approach: The process requires minimal oversight, and networking the software enables multiple learners to train simultaneously. Also, using simulations avoids added wear and tear on plant equipment.
Streamlining Your Nuclear Power Plant Training
Why not contact SimGenics to learn more about our bespoke or off-the-shelf simulations and start training the smart way?