When you think of the various jobs inside a nuclear power plant, there are obvious people who come to mind. Control room operators and engineers, for example, keep the plants running. Security officers ensure the facilities are secure, and maintenance technicians help with needed upgrades and repairs.
What you may not know is that every commercial nuclear power plant in the United States has its very own firefighting department.
Nuclear fire brigade members—just like firefighters in your city or town—hope their skills are never needed. In fact, many go an entire career without ever being called upon. Nonetheless, they regularly train and prepare for a wide variety of situations.
The sole purpose of any nuclear plant’s fire brigade is to stop the spread of fire on the plant site. All members of the fire brigade have other ‘day jobs,’ so to speak. Many work as nuclear equipment operators or serve as radiation experts. When duty calls, however, they quickly switch gears and suit-up in full, firefighting attire.
While members may look like typical firefighters, it’s the training that makes them so unique.
“Unlike municipal firefighters, who train in very general terms, the nuclear fire brigade is much more specialized,” said Oconee Nuclear Station’s Scott Boggs. “Its members can practice on specific areas of a plant and spend hours upon hours learning exactly what it takes to mitigate flames in those areas.”
A tremendous amount of education, training and practice is needed to become a nuclear fire brigade member, and belonging to the brigade is one of the most important jobs you can hold at a nuclear power plant.
“With regular fire drills, classroom training sessions and annual live fire training, the brigade is ready to spring into action at a moment’s notice if needed,” Boggs said.