SAQA All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.

Occupational Certificate: Nuclear Power Plant Operator 
103259  Occupational Certificate: Nuclear Power Plant Operator 
Development Quality Partner - EWSETA -Engineering 
-   OQSF - Occupational Qualifications Sub-framework 
Occupational Certificate  Field 06 - Manufacturing, Engineering and Technology  Manufacturing and Assembly 
Undefined  311  Not Applicable  NQF Level 05  Regular-ELOAC 
Passed the End Date -
Status was "Registered" 
EXCO 05164/18  2018-09-12  2023-09-12 
2024-09-12   2027-09-12  

In all of the tables in this document, both the pre-2009 NQF Level and the NQF Level is shown. In the text (purpose statements, qualification rules, etc), any references to NQF Levels are to the pre-2009 levels unless specifically stated otherwise.  

This qualification replaces: 
Qual ID Qualification Title Pre-2009 NQF Level NQF Level Min Credits Replacement Status
61549  National Certificate: Power Plant Auxiliary Systems Operations  Level 3  NQF Level 03  120  Complete 
61569  Further Education and Training Certificate: Power Plant Operations  Level 4  NQF Level 04  130  Complete 

The purpose of this qualification is to prepare a learner to operate as a Nuclear Power Plant Operator.

A Nuclear Power Plant Operator Monitor, control and perform field operations on nuclear power plant auxiliary support systems and nuclear safety related equipment to facilitate the generation of energy safely and reliably. The operator works independently and conducts first line supervision of small teams when in control of radioactive waste treatment systems.

A qualified learner will be able to:
  • Conduct operations by operating, monitoring and controlling nuclear reactivity process to generate energy from nuclear fuel safely and reliably.
  • Conduct Operations, monitor and control processes used to support the evacuation of heat from the reactor core, the maintenance of reactor inventory, the operation of reactivity control systems and essential safety systems.
  • Conduct operations by operating, monitoring and control turbine control and support systems to ensure safe operation of steam turbines. (Prepare and operate Nuclear Turbine hall plant).
  • Conduct operations by operating, monitoring and control processes to supply adequate electrical supplies for safe unit operation and shutdown.
  • Prepare and operate the radioactive Nuclear waste treatment plant.

    The National Development Plan aims to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030. According to the plan, South Africa can realise these goals by drawing on the energies of its people, growing an inclusive economy, building capabilities, enhancing the capacity of the state, and promoting leadership and partnerships throughout society.

    Research confirms the fact that there is a direct causal relationship between the availability of reliable and cost-efficient energy and economic development. The Integrated Resource Plan 2010 to 2030 (IRP) anticipates that, to sustain the required economic growth needed to deliver on the South African National Development plan we will have to increase our electricity generating capacity by approximately 40%. This will be done through a balanced mix of electricity generations that is set out in the IRP.

    Eskom generates approximately 95% of the electricity used in South Africa and approximately 45% of the electricity used in Africa. Eskom generates, transmits and distributes electricity to industrial, mining, commercial, agricultural and residential customers and redistributors. Additional power stations and major power lines are being built to meet rising electricity demand in South Africa. Eskom will continue to focus on improving and strengthening its core business of electricity generation, transmission, trading, and distribution.

    Currently, there are only two nuclear reactors supplying base load electricity to the national grid, however, in terms of the Integrated Resource Plan, nuclear power generation will play a growing role in our power generation strategy. The Nuclear sector is regulated internationally, and strict rules apply relating to the competency levels of all staff working in a Nuclear power plant.

    This qualification is targeted at developing occupational competence for a key occupational grouping in the power generation value chain. Power Plant Operators are on duty 24 hours a day and ensures the efficient operation of the various power plants.

    There is a continual shortage of skills in this occupation, and with the new build programmes, this situation will continue to be a problem for years to come.

    The capacity building of this cadre of employees is critical to the success of our National development plan and the sustaining of our current economy. This qualification replaces two qualifications that are currently being used extensively in the industry. This qualification is an enhancement of those qualifications, and there will be an immediate and growing uptake of this qualification.

    Obtaining this qualification will launch the learner onto a career path within the industry and will assist in creating the required pool of future leaders in this essential sector. 

    Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL):
    RPL for access to the external integrated summative assessment:
    Accredited providers and approved workplaces must apply the internal assessment criteria specified in the related curriculum document to establish and confirm prior learning. Accredited providers and workplaces must confirm prior learning by issuing a statement of result or certifying a work experience record.

    RPL for access to the qualification:
    Accredited providers and approved workplaces may recognise prior learning against the relevant access requirements.

    Entry Requirements:
    Level 4 with Communication, Science and Mathematical Literacy. 


    TThis qualification is made up of the following compulsory Knowledge Practical Skills and Work Experience Modules.
    Knowledge Modules:
  • 313104-000-00-01-KM-01, Power plant technical understanding, Level 4, 40 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-KM-02, Fundamentals of power plant operations, Level 4, 12 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-KM-03, Nuclear and Secondary Support Systems (Outside Plant), Level 5, 12 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-KM-04, Science and technology of power generating plants, Level 5, 20 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-KM-05, Nuclear Turbines and Electrical equipment, Level 5, 25 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-KM-06, Radioactive, Level 5, 10 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Knowledge Modules: 119.

    Practical Skill Modules:
  • 313104-000-00-01-PM-01, Utilise Nuclear power plant documentation, Level 4, 12 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-PM-02-, Operate, monitor and control processes to generate energy from nuclear fuel, Level 4, 8 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-PM-03, Operate, monitor and control processes used to support the evacuation of heat from the reactor core, the maintenance of reactor inventory, the operation of reactivity control systems and essential safety systems, Level 4, 12 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-PM-04, Operate, monitor, and control process to ensure safe operation of steam turbines, Level 5, 12 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-PM-05, Operate, monitor and control process and systems to generate electricity to supply adequate electrical supplies for safe unit operation, Level 5, 12 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-PM-06, Operate reactive waste treatment plant, Level 5, 12 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Practical Skill Modules: 68.

    Work Experience Modules:
  • 313104-000-00-01-PM-01, Operate nuclear power plant auxiliary systems, Level 4, 24 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-WM-02, Monitor, operate and control nuclear plant safety related and control systems, Level 4, 12 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-WM-03, Operate secondary support systems in a nuclear plant, Level 4, 38 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-WM-04, Operate plant in the Nuclear Power plant turbine hall, Level 4, 34 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-WM-05, Operate, monitor and control processes to supply adequate electrical supplies for safe unit operation and shutdown, Level 5, 8 Credits.
  • 313104-000-00-01-WM-06, Treat reactive nuclear waste, Level 5, 8 Credits.
    Total number of credits for Work Experience Modules: 124. 

    1. Prepare all nuclear power plant systems for service in order to ensure operability of the plant.
    2. Perform field operations on the various nuclear power plant systems/components during start up, normal operations and shut down.
    3. Monitor and control nuclear plant systems/components in the field in different operating conditions, to ensure that they continuously operate within the required specifications and parameters.
    4. Conduct required administration and reporting functions in a nuclear power generation plant. 

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 1:
  • Engineering system drawings, flow diagrams and approved procedures/plant documentation are correctly identified relevant to the specific equipment and systems indicated on the drawings.
  • Flow paths are accurately plotted, and all key equipment components are accurately identified.
  • Flow paths are analysed to identify the most appropriate configuration of plant equipment for specific operations.
  • Appropriate procedures are used for the interpretation and analysis of flow paths.
  • Procedures are used in accordance with the required standards and globally accepted expectations.
  • Major plant components are correctly listed, and the purpose of each of the component is accurately described.
  • Explanations of how to identify major plant equipment in the various plants and their locations are described without reference to floor plans, procedures or any other material.
  • The potential hazards and risks associated with key equipment are described accurately, and the preventative measures are described as per the relevant procedures.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 2:
  • Appropriate procedures/plant documents are accurately selected, and the specific sections of the procedures/plant documents are interpreted according to the specific plant/component condition.
  • Descriptions of operating processes/steps under a range of normal conditions are accurate according to the approved operating procedures/plant documents and describe the up and down stream implications.
  • Appropriate human error prevention tools are selected in order to deal with a full range of operation performance problems, and the use of the tools are accurately described.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 3:
  • Causes of deviating performance are correctly identified and the reporting processes described according to the approved procedures/plant documents.
  • Appropriate alternative corrective actions are identified, and their implementation described according to approved processes.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 4:
  • All relevant documentation and reports for operating the plant is identified and the purpose of the documents and reports described in terms of the standards and expectations.
  • Relevant safety and occupational health sign posting and barricading for all plant areas are identified, and the safety requirements for each area described in terms of the appropriate regulatory requirements.
  • The principles and implications of housekeeping are described according to the operating standards and expectations and its impact on operating performance.

    Integrated Assessment:
    Integrated Formative Assessment:
    The skills development provider will use the curriculum to guide them on the stipulated internal assessment criteria and weighting. They will also apply the scope of practical skills and applied knowledge as stipulated by the internal assessment criteria. This formative assessment leads to entrance into the integrated external summative assessment.

    Integrated summative assessment:
    An external integrated summative assessment, conducted through the relevant Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) Assessment Quality Partner is required for the issuing of this qualification. The external integrated summative assessment will focus on the Exit Level Outcomes and Associated Assessment Criteria. 

    The qualification is based on a study conducted by ESKOM on various European countries with leading power producers during the early 1990's. The German model (with minor changes) was adopted as the basis for this qualification, and the Silver seal operator qualification was registered under the manpower-training act and accredited by the ESKOM and Allied Industries Training Board (EAITB).

    The Silver seal qualification was then further developed to meet the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) requirements and was registered as National Diploma Level 5: Fossil Power Plant Process Control SAQA Qualification ID 23679. This qualification was benchmarked by the Power plant SGB and verified in that the international delivery methodology remained the same. The establishment of the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) resulted in the realignment of this qualification with the addition of workplace experience, which was previously included in the practical on the job programme.
    For international comparability, the United States of America (USA) and Germany were used.

    United States of America (USA):
    In the United States, there are thousands of power plants. These plants use hydrocarbon-based fuels (oil, gas, or coal) to produce electricity, and the plants are operated by power plant operators. Power plant operators are highly paid and enjoy a stable work environment. There is an ongoing need for entry-level personnel. The bulk of the training for Power Plant operators takes place on the job. However, there is several colleges, universities and online training programmes that prepare learners with the required theoretical components. The various training institutions make use of comprehensive simulators and mainly aim to achieve the following learner competencies:
  • Ability to operate a power plant with safety as the prime consideration.
  • Ability to monitor instrumentation and the operation of equipment.
  • Ability to adjust keep system process variables, such as flows, temperatures, and pressures, within acceptable ranges.
  • Ability to detect potential and actual problems and take corrective action to prevent the interruption of system operations.
  • Ability to analyse operational trends and take corrective actions.
  • Ability to use standard operating procedures to start and stop production equipment.
  • Ability to maintain communication with other operators, maintenance, and management.

    The programmes in the USA cover a similar range of theory to that contained in the Occupational Certificate. However, the duration of the theory is significantly less than that of the Occupational Certificate.

    In Europe, specifically Germany, vocational specialisation takes place at a relatively early schooling phase, and therefore the learner exits the schooling system with a high level of technical knowledge and in some cases exposure to the practical aspects of the industry. From here theoretical knowledge is gained through schools that offer certificates and associated degree programmes in power plant technology, the work place experience is gained through internships at Power Utilities.

    Most programmes, in Europe, are linked to an Operator maintainer developmental approach, this is different from the South African context where the Operators and Maintenance staff work separately and undergo different training programmes.

    International utilities make use of independent schools to cover the Knowledge and practical components. Workplace experience is addressed during internships and the Power Utility.

    The finding is that the Occupational Certificate for Nuclear Power Plant operators is aligned to international training and certification programmes delivered by independent utility training providers such as:
  • Industrial resources, NC based in Louisiana United States of America.
  • Kraftwerkschuler based in Germany Europe.

    However, the South African programme contains more base line theory and excludes the maintenance components. 

    Horizontal Articulation:
    This qualification articulates horizontally with:
  • National Diploma: Electrical Network Power Dispatch Controlling, Level 5.

    Vertical Articulation:
    This qualification articulates vertically with:
  • Occupational Certificate: Nuclear Power Plant Process Controller, Level 6. 



    Qualifying for external assessment:
    To qualify for an external assessment, learners must provide proof of completion of all required modules by means of statements of results and work experience.

    Additional legal or physical entry requirements:
    Learners must be found fit in terms of the occupational health requirements for working in a Nuclear Power Plant; Learners must also be in possession of a valid driver's license to execute the duties on a Nuclear Power plant.

    Criteria for the accreditation of providers:
    Accreditation of providers will be done against the criteria as reflected in the relevant curriculum on the Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) website.

    The curriculum title and code are: Nuclear Power Plant Operator: 313104001.

    This qualification encompasses the following trades as recorded on the NLRD:
    This is not a trade qualification.

    Assessment Quality Partners (AQP):
    Energy and Water Sector Education and Training Authority. 

    When qualifications are replaced, some (but not all) of their learning programmes are moved to the replacement qualifications. If a learning programme appears to be missing from here, please check the replaced qualification.

    This information shows the current accreditations (i.e. those not past their accreditation end dates), and is the most complete record available to SAQA as of today. Some Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionaries have a lag in their recording systems for provider accreditation, in turn leading to a lag in notifying SAQA of all the providers that they have accredited to offer qualifications and unit standards, as well as any extensions to accreditation end dates. The relevant Primary or Delegated Quality Assurance Functionary should be notified if a record appears to be missing from here.

    All qualifications and part qualifications registered on the National Qualifications Framework are public property. Thus the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction. It is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.