Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Nuclear chemist details his career choice managing a nuclear reactor on U.S. missile sub

\Chris McDaniel, Olympic Peninsula (WA) Daily News
2 August 2015

SILVERDALE, Wash. – A Sequim High School graduate moved from school books to nuclear submarine maintenance as a member of the Navy's “Silent Service.”
Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick O'Sullivan, who graduated from Sequim High in 2007, serves aboard the USS Louisiana as a nuclear reactor chemist.
“I enjoy working with chemistry and being able to take a sample and describe it to people and help them understand it,” O'Sullivan said.
The Louisiana is one of the Navy's 14 Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines, also referred to as “boomers,” that patrol the world's oceans for months at a time.
The boomers can carry up to 24 submarine-launched ballistic missiles – each containing multiple, independently targeted warheads – and act as undetectable launch platforms anywhere in the world's oceans.
Together with land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles and strategic bombers, the Navy's Ohio-class submarines are part of the nation's strategic nuclear deterrence triad.
The Louisiana is based at Naval Base Kitsap in Silverdale.
In addition to USS Louisiana, seven other Ohio-class ballistic missile submarines are based in Kitsap County, along with three Seawolf-class submarines and two Ohio-class guided-missile submarines that are all assigned to the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Nuclear Duties
As a nuclear-trained machinist's mate, O'Sullivan performs duties in nuclear propulsion plants such as operating reactor control, propulsion and power generation systems.
And as a sailor with numerous responsibilities, O'Sullivan said he is learning about himself as a leader, sailor and a person.
“Being in the Navy has given me a higher sense of how to organize and manage my priorities,” he said.
“I've also developed better study habits, [and] I like that I get to learn a lot about things I wouldn't have otherwise.”
Additionally, the job “has given me opportunities to advance and given me [unique] talents,” he said.
“Also, being able to operate a nuclear reactor is pretty cool.”
Because of the demanding nature of service aboard submarines, sailors such as O'Sullivan are accepted only after rigorous testing and observation that can last several months, the Navy said.
O'Sullivan successfully completed basic recruit training and applied for the Navy's Nuclear Field program.
As a program candidate, he attended “A” School in Charleston, S.C., to receive technical training.
He then attended Nuclear Power School, also in Charleston, where he learned theory and practical application of nuclear physics and reactor engineering.
Next, he began prototype training with one of two nuclear power training units.
Upon successful completion of the courses, he was designated as a nuclear propulsion plant operator.
Finally, he volunteered for submarine service and was assigned to the Louisiana after being granted security clearance.
In the military, all classified information is divided into one of three categories: “confidential,” “secret” and “top-secret.”
Leaking such information is deemed to pose a threat to national security.
77 Days At Sea
Boomers are specifically designed for extended nuclear deterrent patrols.
The Ohio-class design allows the submarines to operate for 15 or more years between major overhauls.
On average, the submarines spend 77 days at sea followed by 35 days in port for maintenance.
Due to the extended tours, each boomer has two crews, Blue and Gold, that alternate manning the submarines and taking them on patrol.
Gold Crew
O'Sullivan serves on the Gold Crew.
The two-crew system maximizes the submarines' strategic availability, reduces the number of vessels required to meet strategic requirements and allows for proper crew training, readiness and morale, according to Navy officials.
With about 15 officers and 140 enlisted in the submarine's company, jobs are highly varied – “everything from washing dishes and preparing meals to handling weaponry and maintaining the propulsion system,” according to the Navy.
O'Sullivan said he is proud of his work.
“The most rewarding thing about serving in the Navy is the pride in serving my country and knowing the sacrifices you make are appreciated,” he said.

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