Navy decertifies nuclear reactor operators for possible cheating

The Navy announced Tuesday that a fifth of its nuclear reactor operators at a Charleston, South Carolina training command have been decertified, due to possible cheating on qualification tests. 

"This incident involves members of the school staff who are required to qualify to operate and instruct students on the training reactor," said Adm. John Richardson, the Navy’s current director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program. 

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Currently, about 30 of approximately 150 qualified operators at Charleston have been decertified, according to a Navy official. The Navy has launched an investigation into the matter, and the number could possibly expand, officials say. 

Navy officials said they were alerted to the cheating when one sailor "was offered to compromise his integrity, recognized that this was wrong, and reported it to the command," said Richardson, who said he learned of the incident on Monday. 

Officials said the incident involved the alleged compromise of the written exam to qualify one person on an 11 person team -- one part of a multi-part qualification process that includes an oral exam, and a hands-on test. 

"The propulsion exam was allegedly shared among some senior enlisted operators," said Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations. 

After learning of the incident, all training reactors were shut down for routine maintainance, and all personnel implicated in the cheating allegations decertified, Navy officials said.

The number of those decertified could grow, as an investigation continues, officials said. All other training personnel at the command are being retested, Richardson said. 

Extra supervision has been assigned to the training teams, he added.

Adm. Richardson said there could be a possible operational impact with other operators having to fill in for those decertified. 

After staff members complete their tours at the training command, they return to the fleet, where they are requalified through the same process, officials said.

"To say that I'm disappointed would be an understatement," Greenert said. "It's definitely contrary to all of our core values -- our Navy core values."