USW Tony Mazzocchi Center Holds Radiation Control Technician Classes at Portsmouth, Paducah Sites

The USW’s Tony Mazzocchi Center (USWTMC) will hold trainings for junior radiation control technicians in order to help address a shortage of qualified RCTs at the former gaseous diffusion plant sites in Portsmouth and Paducah.

RCT classes at the former Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant cleanup site begin Feb. 22 with 20 students. USWTMC is organizing RCT training sessions at Paducah for later this spring.

The RCT training is open to employees at both sites, as well as serving as a community outreach program.

Pictured: A radiation control technician at work courtesy the U.S. Department of Energy.  

RCTs are responsible for keeping workers and the public safe by measuring radiation, and while their duties vary depending on the specific projects they are assigned, they may do such work as monitoring work crews as they exit contamination areas or conducting air sampling.

“When I am briefing workers at the start of the job, I tell them that I am working right beside them and that my job is to ensure they come out of the area as clean as they walked in. I don’t want to take anything dangerous home to my family, and I don’t want them to either,” said Amy Sparks, a senior radiological control technician at Portsmouth. “I feel that if you have that mindset, you will grow to be a good RCT.”

Sparks went through RCT training five years ago when USW Local 1-689 the USWTMC and other partners organized and presented the program. She completed the course in the beginning of 2018 and started work as a junior RCT with contractor Fluor BWXT. Now, she is serving as one of the six senior RCT trainers who teach the 13 class modules at Portsmouth so she can pass along her knowledge and experience.

The RCT training program lasts for seven months, and there are two exams: One covers the 13 modules the U.S. Department of Energy requires and the other covers modules specific to the site. Students get a certificate at the end of the training if they pass the two exams. Then they can apply for jobs at each location.

At Portsmouth, there is a need for well-qualified RCTs, according to Local 1-689 President Herman Potter. Rusty Reynolds, Local 8-550 lead USWTMC trainer at Paducah, said there was a shortage of RCTs at his plant as well. He said that as decommissioning and decontamination ramp up, the need for RCTs will grow exponentially.

Graduates of the program can get hired on as junior RCTs. As they gain experience, they can advance to the senior RCT position and then to the lead technician job by completing an oral board.

This RCT training is made possible by a grant from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The Pike County Career Technology Center and USW Local 1-689

serve as partners for the Portsmouth training. Partners of the RCT training program at Paducah include USW Local 8-550, West Kentucky Community and Technical College, Four Rivers Partnership, and local and state civic leaders.

USW RCT training is “more intense and covers practical situations by people who have first-hand experience,” Potter said. “This is in contrast to contractor trainers who may not have done a radiation survey in years. They minimize chemical exposures.”

Like the Portsmouth class, the Paducah RCT program will accept 20 people into the program. Applications for the Paducah RCT classes are due March 10, 2022. Those who are interested in learning more about the program should contact USWTMC training program assistant Fiona R. Galley at or (412)-562-2583.

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