Matt Carberry (kingpin248) wrote,
Matt Carberry

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The nuclear maintenance process, in layman's terms

Imagine you have a copier, or a few copiers, at work. They are ordinary copiers, capable of doing all the expected things of any such machine in any ordinary office. But in order to operate them, you have to pull out the instruction manual and follow its procedures, every time. You must do this even for the simplest jobs, like making single sided black and white copies. As you step through the procedure, there are several important caveats. Prior to performing each step, you must place a circle around its number, so you can't possibly lose your place. In order to take the specified action, you must point at the label and intended position of each switch, and read it carefully before operating. And once the switch is pressed or the button is moved, you must place an X over the circle in the book. Only then can you move on to the next step.

If there's something wrong with the copier that you didn't expect, or any other exception that keeps you from performing the procedure as written, you must track down your immediate boss, who has to determine the course of action to take. If it ends up being something that won't be fixed, the office manager has to sign off on a written alteration to the procedure to allow for continued operation.

If you're caught trying to forge ahead without concurrence, you'll be stopped, and all your bosses will be notified. If your bosses think it serious enough, they'll stop work on that copier, and perhaps even all copiers in the office. Then they'll all sit down with you in the conference room and painstakingly try to determine the "root causes" of you having faltered. Once this "critique" is done, you will likely have to complete a formal written upgrade before you can resume using any copier in the office. They need to be sure you understand procedural compliance.

To ensure that the procedures are being followed, there will be periodic monitoring of copier operations. For the most part, it'll be any combination of your bosses, from your immediate supervisor all the way on up to your department head and the office manager. A few times a year, the regional headquarters will send people over to check on your operations. And once a year, a team comes all the way from the national office to make sure everything is up to par. And if you tank it in front of them - it's all over. Then they'll take the keys to the office, and the regional HQ has to buy off on everything your office tries to do - from opening in the morning, to restock, to new product testing. And yes, this most definitely includes the copiers.

Does it sound like overkill? I don't see how you can come to any other conclusion. Is it overkill? Even I, with over five years experience in this program and more than three on an operational submarine, must conclude that it is. But we must not forget the salient point: my colleagues and I don't work on copiers. We work on nuclear power plants, situated close to some of our country's most populated areas, and taken out to sea, and into harm's way. We have to be ultra-conservative, because there's no margin for gross error in what we do. A company's building can burn down, and a new one can be built. A well-placed virus can tare through every single one of a corporation's copiers, but it will eventually recover. If the Seagoing Military Force has a major nuclear accident, we're done with nuclear marine propulsion for a long time, if not forever. And if you don't believe me, I counter with three words: Three Mile Island. We'd lose all the advantages that nuclear power provides, while remaining stuck with many of the negatives, like radiological control and spent fuel storage. The exacting standards and quality of the materials, personnel, and training are absolutely necessary to maintaining our sterling safety record.

I'm writing about this now because what we're doing has repeatedly brought these points home, to all of us suffering out here on the Submersible Death Trap. It has also made me realize that while I may accept the necessity of excessive overkill in my line of work, I don't accept that it needs to reign over my whole life. When you serve in any branch of the armed forces, the service comes first, no matter what you might think or might be told by your chain of command or anyone else. Giving twenty or more of my best years to the Navy would be a submission to the way we do things - and not just in my work, but in all the other areas. While it's not my most important reason for separating, it's a big part of why I will pledge no more than the seven months remaining on my current enlistment.
Tags: nauseating detail, navy hate, nuclear power

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