Tamara Wilhite is a technical writer, industrial engineer, mother of two, and published sci-fi and horror author.
A Higher Set of Standards
The ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code, or ASME BPVC, is the design standard for fabricating, inspecting, and testing pressure vessels. While nuclear reactors use fission to generate heat instead of burning fossil fuels, equipment like pressurized water reactors are built in accordance with ASME standards.
However, nuclear pressure vessels must meet different, higher quality standards than most pressure vessels. Nuclear welding certification is granted by the ASME. Nuclear welding inspection certification and non-destructive testing certification are also granted by the ASME.
Standards for Nuclear Vessel Manufacturing
Nuclear vessels are manufactured per ASME Code Section III. ASME Code Section III Division 1 is for Nuclear Power Plant Components. This section is further divided into seven subsections. Class 1 components include the nuclear reactor and coolant system.
Class 2 components are part of the coolant system for the reactor but do not carry radioactive water. For example, Class 2 components will include the heat regeneration piping that transfers the heat from the Class 1 pipes from the reactor. The heat regeneration pipes are wrapped around the Class 1 components, and they hold the water as the heat from the reactor turns the water into steam. This steam is then carried to the turbines to generate electricity.
Class 3 components are any elements that support Class 2 components without being part of them. Class MC or metal components include equipment like containment vessels and metal boilers.
Subsection code Classes 1, 2, 3, and Metal Component or MC give the structural integrity and quality requirements for power plant components like the containment system. The ASME code also mandates detailed stress analysis for all nuclear pressure vessels.
Standards for Welders Working on Nuclear Assemblies
ASME Code Section III requires manufacturers to retain detailed documentation on the welding procedures used at all manufacturing steps, the procedures used to test the welds, who performed the work, and when they earned nuclear welding certification.
BPVC Section IX outlines the brazing and welding qualification procedures for nuclear pressure vessels. Section IX also gives the welding and brazing qualifications required to work on equipment for use around nuclear reactors. Welders must be qualified per the procedures listed in paragraph NCA-5250.
Where to Find Nuclear Welding Training
American Welding Society certifications are insufficient for nuclear welding jobs. The ASME offers training courses on the design, inspection, and quality management systems for nuclear plant components. ASME teaches courses for welders to earn the ASME nuclear welding certification.
Westinghouse is well known for its appliances and light bulbs. However, Westinghouse is also a major player in the nuclear power plant construction industry. To meet its need for qualified nuclear welders, Westinghouse has two facilities that train nuclear-certified welders and conventional welders. One Westinghouse Electric Company nuclear welding training site is in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The second Westinghouse nuclear welding training program is located in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Westinghouse-trained nuclear welders are then apprenticed at one of the nuclear sites Westinghouse maintains.
While most nuclear work is located at nuclear power plants, there is an additional avenue for getting trained as a nuclear welder. The United States Navy has nuclear welding courses to train people to work on nuclear submarines and shipyards. However, these courses are generally limited to enlisted personnel.
Working in the nuclear reactor pool requires additional certifications. Welders working underwater in the nuclear reactor pool must be certified for underwater welding in addition to holding nuclear-specific certifications.
Additional Nuclear Welding Requirements
You cannot work in a nuclear power plant without first passing an FBI background check. This background check is much more extensive than a conventional criminal background check. You must also pass drug and alcohol tests to work on site. Nuclear power plants may require additional training, such as the proper use of radiation dosimeters, safety protocols, and site security procedures.
Nuclear Welding Inspection
ASME BPVC Section V gives the nondestructive test procedures used on nuclear vessels. An Authorized Nuclear Inspector verifies that all pressure vessels are manufactured per code, generally Section III, Division 1.
An Authorized Nuclear Inspector certification is earned by taking a five day course offered by the ASME and earning at least a 70% on the course exam.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.