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Irradiated-Fuel Handlers: Courses, Training & Certification

Irradiated-fuel handlers are trained to work with nuclear fuel. This article explores their typical duties, as well as the training involved in preparing for this type of career. Read on to learn how to become an irradiated-fuel handler.

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Career Definition of an Irradiated-Fuel Handler

Irradiated-fuel handlers work in nuclear power plants. Their job is to safely remove and store the nuclear fuel that has been used, which is also called spent fuel. They must be aware of all applicable regulations and laws concerning the disposal and storage of irradiated fuel. It is their responsibility to ensure that they follow regulations exactly.

Irradiated-fuel handlers use different machines in order to perform their tasks, which involve both securing irradiated fuel canisters in lead casks and transporting the irradiated fuel. They are responsible for keeping accurate records of what they have secured, moved and stored. They also take canisters out of storage after the irradiated fuel has been stored for a sufficient length of time. In the course of their duties they may operate equipment such as cranes, portable handling tools and refueling machines.

Educational Requirements High school diploma and on-the-job training
Job Skills Attention to detail, physical fitness, mechanical skills, decision-making skills, mathematical skills, safety-consciousness, documentation skills, hand-eye coordination
Median Salary (2016)* $40,640 (all hazardous materials removal workers)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 17% (all hazardous materials removal workers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

In order to work as an irradiated-fuel handler, it's necessary to have a high school diploma; individuals interested in this line of work can choose to demonstrate their value to potential employers by acquiring mathematical and mechanical skills and completing workplace safety training so that they can compete for job opportunities, although this training is not required.

Once hired, irradiated-fuel handlers complete extensive on-the-job training, including Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) training, which helps individuals understand the health risks involved in working with hazardous materials, practices for maintaining a safe work environment and procedures for using equipment. Irradiated-fuel handlers must also complete three months' worth of training that is approved by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and qualifies them to become a Certified Fuel Handler. This training familiarizes them with safety regulations and proper procedures for working with irradiated fuel. Some states also require these workers to pass an exam and be licensed.

Required Skills

Irradiated-fuel handlers need to pay attention to details to ensure their work is conducted safely. They also need to have excellent hand-eye coordination and mechanical skills because their work involves using tools and equipment such as cranes. They must be capable of maintaining accurate and thorough documentation of their work.

Career Outlook and Salary

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes irradiated-fuel handlers with its occupational listing for hazardous materials removal workers. As of 2016, the BLS reported hazardous materials removal workers took home a median income of $40,640 per year. The BLS projects a job growth of 17% for these professionals from 2016 to 2026. This is notably higher than the average rate of job growth the BLS anticipates for all occupations during the same ten-year period, which is expected to be 7%.

Related Careers

If a career as an irradiated-fuel handler sounds appealing, then you may also want to explore other careers that involve comparable training or the use of similar skills. Find out more about some alternate career options via the links listed here.


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