Full steam ahead in nuclear power training

16 January 2024

Three Royal Australian Navy officers took another significant step in their submariner careers, and on the Pathway to Australia operating conventionally-armed nuclear-powered submarines (SSNs) when they graduated from the U.S. Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) program in Charleston, South Carolina on 12 January 2024.

Lieutenant Commanders Heydon and Klyne and Lieutenant Hall are the first cadre of Royal Australian Navy personnel to complete one of the U.S. Department of Defense’s most rigorous and demanding training pipelines.  

“I was really looking forward to putting the concepts and theories we learned at power school into operation at the prototype training,” said Klyne.  

“Operating a nuclear reactor was thrilling, humbling, and allowed us get that hands-on experience we need to safely operate the Royal Australian Navy’s future SSNs.” 

NPTU trains officers, enlisted sailors and civilians for shipboard nuclear power plant operation and maintenance of surface ships and submarines in the U.S. Navy’s nuclear fleet. 

Director, Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program U.S. Admiral Bill Houston said NPTU provided the necessary groundwork for students to gain the competence and confidence needed to operate SSNs.

“NPTU is where our nuclear operators put the knowledge and theories they learned in power school into actual power plant operation and watch-standing capabilities,” Admiral Houston said.

“It’s here our students learn to safely and competently operate the plant in both normal and potential casualty situations.”

The next stop for the three officers is the Submarine Officer Basic Course (SOBC) in Groton, Connecticut where they will undergo the same training given to U.S. Navy officers entering the submarine force. After completing the SOBC, they will be assigned to a U.S. Navy Virginia-class submarine to continue their training and qualifications. 

“Our progression through the schools in South Carolina, and next in Groton, brings us closer to our ultimate goal of serving aboard not just SSNs, but Australian-flagged SSNs early next decade,” said Hall.