Charisma R

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National City, CA

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Charisma's Story > Categories > Work

"Part 2: Apprentice Health Physics Technician" 


Date Range: 05/01/1991 To 04/30/1992   Comments: 2   Views: 45,500
Attachments: Yes [1 Images]

As you may have guessed, I got the job!  Boy was I in for a surprise!  Here I am, 19, fresh out of high school with no idea what I wanted to do with my life. 


I was so green behind the ears!  (jargon for naïve and stupid)  But I wasn’t about to let this opportunity slip out of my fingers.  I knew that I had to work hard.  I wasn’t a brainiac in school but I wasn’t a flunky either.  I would sluff off but then cram 5 minutes before a test and get B’s.  Sometimes A and C’s.  I just didn’t try hard because I didn’t care.  I never thought about what I wanted to do for a living.  I definitely did not want to go to college.  I thought it was a waste of money.  I knew it was a party scene and I would get caught up in that and I probably would fail.


But now I was scared.  I joined 5 others in a small classroom and the training began at the nuclear power plant that hired me.  It was unusual for a plant to train in the Health Physics Technicians themselves.  Most of them came from Navy nuke or some college.  Which by the way is pretty much non-existent anymore.  We are very shorthanded in our line of work.  More nuclear power plants are going to be built and they have no program or college training for the HP’s anymore.  But there are ways to get in.  So if you have a clean record and are not psycho you could start off at the bottom and be a deconner (otherwise known as Laborer in some plants).  This is like a radiological janitor.  If you put your time in you can move up pretty quickly.


I’ll stop.  I’m not here to sell to you guys. 


I found out in the classroom that the HP’s across the states were trying to form a union and go on strike.  It didn’t work.  They hired us off the streets instead. 


Two other guys in the class I knew from high school.  One was a year younger than me.  Another graduated with my sister and hung out with her a little bit.  One guy came from outer space (I swear).  A girl was an actual Chemistry Technician at the plant and was changing positions.  Another girl was a Deconner and was trying to move up the ladder.  And then there was me. 


I wasn’t the youngest.  You have to be 18 to be able to work in a nuclear power plant anywhere.  The guy that was younger than me was actually the son of another Chemistry Technician that worked there.  Oh no, we don’t have nepotism…lol


The guy that graduated with my sister probably struggled the most in the class.  And of course, we were all getting paid while in training.  Pretty decent for that time.  Can you believe that?  Getting paid to learn.  Wow.  Well, this guy drank a lot of it and he got popped for a piss test at work and failed it.  So he was down the road midway through the class.


I am very thankful to my sister during this time.  I was living with her and she took good care of me.  I would come home after an 8 hour class, go to my room, close the door, lay on my bed with my “bible” in my lap.  Actually, it was “Basic Radiation Protection Technology by Daniel Gollnick".  We had our homework each day which consisted of reading 1 or 2 chapters and essay questions. 


I read very slowly and it took me 3 hours to read one chapter.  I ended up falling asleep every night with this book on my chest.  My sister would come in with a tray of food or just take the book off of me and cover me up.  What an angel!


Weeks turn into months and each Friday we had an essay quiz.  Then at the end of the class we had the big test.  All essay form.  Then we were given a short oral quiz to be sure we understood what we wrote.  Thank goodness for all the debates in our group.  Whenever the teacher would leave us to self study, we would throw questions at each other to see who was the smartest.


The guy from outer space had the biggest mouth and ego.  But he was entertaining. 


We finished and finally were able to go into the actual plant.  We met with the old timers in the department and were in awe of how things looked versus on paper.  Then we got more training, OJT’s and OJE’s (on the job training and evaluation).  We were so qualified that we blew some of the housetechs (permanent workers) away. 


Well Mr. Outer Space Guy is still very verbal and decides to annoy me by saying that I was going to marry him someday.  Another woman overhead his stupid comments and asked me later what I thought.  I said I didn’t like it but I didn’t care about him, he was no skin off my back.  She thought I should say something about it.  I didn’t think it was that important.  She decided to go to management and complain that he was harassing me. 


He didn’t like that one bit.  But I still didn’t care.  He stopped bugging me so that was a plus.  Man, did he pout. 


He ended up getting fired for not properly wearing his safety shoes.  He would leave the shoelaces untied and have the tongue of the boot hanging way out.  He would clomp around the concrete halls and look absolutely ridiculous.  He was informed twice to change and he didn’t so they let him go.  Idiot.

The guy who was the son of a Chem Tech ended up leaving to go to college.  The Chem Tech girl went back to being a Chem Tech.  The Deconner girl went back to being a Deconner for a while.  So I was the last of the guinea pigs.   

I ended up staying at the plant for a year and then they said that I needed to get experience on the road (meaning travel to other plants and work their outages).  They were doing me a favor because my per diem was running out.  That only lasted for a year.  Yep, I was getting paid for living expenses too. 


So I left.  “On the road again” only this was my first time.  By myself.  That was very scary and exciting. 


My journey begins…

The following is a picture of me at Access.  Access Control is where we lived.  We controlled all the things going in and out of the RCA (Radiologically Controlled Area).  We surveyed everything to make sure we weren't releasing any radioactivity to public or environment.  

Here you can see I'm wearing two PIC's (Pocket Ion Chamber).  This was our dosimeter that measured how much radiation we received to our bodies.  Obviously we wouldn't get any dose unless we entered a RA (Radiation Area), HRA, or VHRA (High Radiation Area or Very High Radiation Area).  We would hold these PIC's up to the light and could read an analog scale.  These are dinosaurs.  Now we use ED (Electronic Dosimeters) that look like little beepers or pagers and they read out digitally.

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Member Since
Oct 2009
p. bernard leclerc said:
posted on Jan 27, 2010
I went in a reactor myself

My oldest brother is a nuclear engineer.  While he worked at the Seabrook plant in NH, I visited him and he gave me a tour during his graveyard shift.  The plant was 95% complete at the time.  I climbed down the ladder into the stainless steel cylidrical reactor tube and looked up at where the plutonium rods would be.  Very cool.         

Member Since
May 2008
Charisma R said:
posted on Feb 21, 2011
In the picture

The guy walking behind me started out as a junior with me and now he's a manager. He's a good guy. I haven't seen him since. Being a Radiation Protection Manager is a big deal to me because they are not only responsible for us minions but he has to answer to the Nuclear Regulatory Commision (NRC).