Naval Nuclear Laboratory Employee Reviews

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Horribly Managed Program/ Facility (Idaho). Poor work-life balance.
Engineer (Current Employee) –  IdahoFebruary 9, 2019
Worked at the Idaho Facility while under the management of Bechtel Marine Propulsion Corp.

The rate of attrition at the facility on the engineering side of the house is poor. The company likes to hire young people right out of college (absolutely nothing wrong with that), but is not willing make it worth their time to stay. I’d say work- life-balance is one of the biggest factors for most people. Most engineers work a 9-80 schedule (80 hours over a 2 week period with 9 working days); the commute to and from the site from Idaho Falls, Pocatello, or other major living areas is on average about 1.1 hours from the bus pickup to the facility (each way). A typical work day will have you away from home 12+ hours.
Need to head to town for a quick dental appointment or to attend to your children? Forget about it. Plan on burning up 1/2 day or full day of Medical time, since it’s not worth your time nor financial resources to drive back and forth.

Poor employee management and poor historical management of facility systems are the most difficult aspects of the job. Some of the buildings have been around for 60 years, and have poorly managed and maintained for atleast 20 years. Its actually really difficult to assess the actual history of the site as most work at the facility been poorly documented, archived and/or retained making information difficult or impossible to retrieve in any reliable manner. Couple this with the high rate of attrition, and you have a recipe for disaster. More times that not, managment’s answer to finding information regarding old system
  more... history is to talk to the “old timers”. While the relatively few super experienced workers are indeed excellent assets, the company is failing to retain future long term employees, and the experienced guys are retiring and leaving too. Meanwhile, management continues to place their head back in the sand instead of developing a comprehensive and effective campaign towards salvaging and improving system histories.

This is a nuclear facility. Documentation and history is IMPERATIVE. The problem with poorly documented history permeates all aspects of maintainenance and engineering at the facility; it results in constant work stoppages due to unknown underground utilities being disturbed, it results in inffective and redundant processes being pushed by management. It also leads to (often unaddressed) worker safety issues, and potential injuries.

Real and pressing safety and infrastructure issues exist all over the site, including undocumented and unmaintained electrical equipment, poorly documented cross contamination between various utility systems, poor information regarding locations and concentrations of health hazardous materials, asbestos, and radiological contamination. (Harken back to my comment regarding poorly managed system history, Many systems have already been sampled, the program subsequently failed to manage the data properly, making it unreliable/un-searchable.

An uninitiated reader on this site might not understand the significance of sample data and system history. IF YOU WORK AT ONE OF THE NNL FACILITIES, THIS IS THE NAME OF THE GAME. Everything hinges on this information.


Here’s a little explanation of the day-to-day

To a newly hired employee, a job with the NNL might sound pretty fascinsting, and might even carry some mystique, since you’ll have to obtainto have a security clearance. In reality, as an engineer most of your time will be spent pushing paperwork; filling out hazard evaluations, completing safety checklists, filling out excavation requests, drafting radiological evaluations, etc

You won’t use 95% of the information you learned in college. You’ll be lucky.......LUCKY!.... to use any engineering related academic discipline more advanced than simple algebra. Working out at the Idaho facility will slowly sap every ounce of latent academic engineering knowledge that you had collected throughout your schooling from your beautiful brain. It will slowly drain out of your body as you sit your days away staring at the computer in with dirty cubical that was passed down to you from last year’s system engineer. Feel your lifelong engineering career hopes shrivel, as you re-reformat (redundancy intentional) your work package to match this months suggested work package template. You will be relegated to performing this process day-in-day-out; perhaps because the name of last year’s system engineer is still on the form, or perhaps it’s because your work package sat in the work group’s queue so long that it doesn’t include the the newly required permit form (it wasn’t required two months ago when you submitted your work package). Hear your engineering spirit breathe its last gasps as you listen to this quarter’s subdivision manager parrot upper managments’ justifications on why it’s ok for your system’s maintenance has fallen further and further behind in the name of this week’s self imposed and ineffective work stoppages.

Once you become blind and impartial to the incredible amount of time and employee resources wasted by The Program and its prime contractors, you might actually be able to find some humor in the asinity of the environment you work in. Here’s a theoretical example: when the interior and exterior walls of one of the facility’s many decrepit structures can’t be re-painted due to legacy radiological contamination in the paint (self-imposed regulation stranglehold), EVENTUALLY the existing paint will fail to adhere. If you’re lucky, the chips fell off on the inside of the building. If they feel outside...... well then you might find your planned maintenance job (and every other planned job within Facilities) put on the back burner so that every free laborer can support the hazardous waste cleanup crew employees, who at some point are going to be crawling around on their hands and knees while sifting through gravel and grass to retrieve loose paint chips by hand (DON’T YOU DARE EVEN ASK about using a vacuum) . In the following week’s management meeting you might have the good fortune of listening to the management team do their best job of spinning the situation to explain how the company goes above and beyond to act as good stewards of the environment; Forget about the wasted resources, and the underlying causation of the problems, like rain water coming through the roof of the buildings.


While real and pressing issues regarding long term system equipment operability and employee safety are constantly being voiced by a select few engineers, the facility safety and ESH managers will be turning a blind eye; they will instead be poking their noses around inside the refrigerators to identify expired lunch meats (employee provided) and issuing citations.


The status quo of the facilities and maintenance side of the site is reactionary crisis management. I’m actually convinced that the prime contractor is dis-incentivized from actually completely and permanently correcting some of the issues that continually plague the site.

If you, the reader, decides to take a job here, I sincerely hope that you are able to take a deep and sober look at the way the place operates. It is both infuriating and frightening.

Multiple reviewers have commented about individuals in management typically ‘failing up’ into their positions; it’s true, poorly performing management here typically moves up or laterally into new positions. Many of the individuals in upper management are also retired Navy/military; the influence permeates the management chain.

Management uses an employee assessment (rating) system which, although it is supposed to be unbiased, really mounts to a popularity contest. You’ll continually find that many of the employees who stay late (who also come in late), and fraternize with the managers after hours in lieu of actually completing work, will consistently be the ones to score high appraisal ratings. It makes it difficult to stomach when you see the individuals who are actually contributing to progress get under rated.

Management tries its best to shun discussion of individual employee compensation, since the guys who have worked here for 10 years are at the same pay as the college new hire who started last week. Corporate and upper management don't truly care about the satisfaction nor longevity of its employees. The proof is in the rate of attrition.
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Pros
Excellent co-workers. Very stable job
Cons
Corporate and upper management don’t care enough about employees
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2.0
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Boring and Non Fullfilling.
Project Analyst (Former Employee) –  West Mifflin, PADecember 9, 2018
This place is good for getting a decent starting salary. After that, salaries plateau quick, your work gets redundant, and you realize that getting promotions just isn't worth the slight pay bump. Managment is extrmely out of touch with what is actually going on with employees and micro manage absolutly everything. They refuse to adjust outdate policy and are stuck in their ways. Getting a security clearance was also a waist of time. They act up tight about being a secured enviroment but it really is just a joke.
Pros
starting salary, benifits, work/life
Cons
everything else
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3.0
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Would be great if it had nothing to do with the defense industry
Senior Program Manager (Current Employee) –  Niskayuna, NYNovember 4, 2018
I'd give it a higher rating but the mission of the organization isn't in line with my personal values and career objectives. Overall the workplace is fine, and there is decent job security.
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3.0
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A "Place" To Work
Test Engineer (Former Employee) –  West Mifflin, PASeptember 28, 2018
NNL West Mifflin (referred to herein as Bettis, because the stuffy NNL title is only a results of recent corporate/government shenanigans) is simply "A Place to Work". When I left, they started a hiring campaign with the slogan "A Great Place to Work", which was a direct copy from a Denny's hiring campaign, but internally everyone agreed through several company intranet pages that #APlaceToWork was more appropriate.
I would say that is a fair statement. Others may say different, but my experience at Bettis was overall moderate. I would not recommend this job to everyone because the stuffy life of "verbatim compliance" is not for everyone, but if you can take that and put up with knee jerk reactions to ridiculous report-able events, then Bettis might be okay for you. Ask about what you're supposed to do if you see a yellow colored Easter egg in a bush...that's my favorite.
Work/life balance was fine, benefits were exceptional, the time off they give you is hard to beat, and you can go out to lunch everyday for an hour and no one will care (except maybe the secret time card police). Honestly, no complaints there.
Morale has declined significantly in recent years because of overdue promotions, high turnover rates in select groups (my group specifically), and unanswered concerns about compensation. For an entry-level engineer position, I feel that the pay is fair when comparing nationwide, but there were several voiced concerns that it is under for the Pittsburgh area; Bettis NEVER addressed any of those concerns.
This next part is not an understatement: this is a VERY secure
  more... job. Since they request government funds 7 years in advance...you know you'll have a job. As long as you don't falsify documentation or violate security measures, it's a challenge to get fired. The entire time I worked there, those were the only two reasons I heard for people getting fired. In terms of advancement...(sigh) I would admit the opportunity is there, but my thoughts on that later.
Management is just that...management. They manage the work...it gets done...but don't expect anything else. They only hire "yes" men/women as managers, and they don't care about fixing a broken promotion system. Most of the managers were okay at dividing the work...I can't say the same for mine...
My personal story: if you're a naive go-getter (like I used to be) and your boss is afraid to assign work to the vast array of new individuals in the group, then chances are you will be taken advantage of. Bettis ruined my opinion of government employment and since I have become very aware of corporate oppression. By my 3rd year, I was finally accepted a long awaited unofficial lead role...the next month I was FORCED into a 2nd official lead role due to turnover and was not allowed to relinquish my other responsibilities. By my boss's definition, I was fulfilling the duties of 3 full time engineers in my group. Despite this, these changes did not come with a pay increase (NEVER expect that) and I was overdue for regularly scheduled promotion...my boss had to sit me down and apologize for that more than once, but he wasn't willing to push harder for it. Instead, I had to attend a mandatory "Q and A" session with the Department Manager where he lied to a group of ~30 people saying that the same exact position I was FORCED into deserved an instant promotion 3 levels above my pay scale! It was such a sham, that I refused to accept the official title of the lead position I was forced into until the week of my announced resignation, HA!...but I digress; too many capital letters in one paragraph.
Aside from my personal experience and the declining morale, the job culture was good; anywhere you work, people will want to point blame, but at Bettis most people weren't afraid to own up to it. It was very much a healthy team atmosphere and those who can't see it don't appreciate it. I made a lot of friends there, and I miss the people I worked with very much.
In conclusion, Bettis is very much the model example of "A Place to Work"...if you're thinking of leaving Bettis, the next place you go might not be a "greener pasture".
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Pros
great people, great benefits, long lunches, easter egg hunts
Cons
out of touch managers, verbatim compliane, knee jerk reactions to hidden yellow easter eggs
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3.0
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A good place to start off your early career.
Associate Nuclear Engineer (Current Employee) –  Niskayuna, NYApril 16, 2018
Fantastic 401k with company match, best place for work-life balance. When you leave at the end of the day, it's not expected that you're working from home or constantly "connected". Flexible work schedules allow for family needs and appointments. Many career advancement opportunities in the area with job security.
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5.0
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challenging assignments, management facilitates well
Systems Engineer (Current Employee) –  Niskayuna, NYMarch 19, 2018
Working in the IT department for the past 13 months, doing systems administration and some app development, I have been impressed with the projects and operations opportunities provided. My coworkers have been friendly and helpful. I have gained much useful technical knowledge here, and there are substantial opportunities for getting additional training as needed. Management is focused on results and on the morale of their team. We don't have an excessive amount of meetings. This is a great place for self-starters looking for challenges, but ok with a substantial amount of 'red tape' and waiting to get new systems approved for production use. The company has a can-do but friendly and congenial culture.
Pros
Well run but not micro-managed
Cons
Takes long time to get security clearance
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2.0
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Redundant, boring work
Intermediate Engineer (Current Employee) –  Pittsburgh, PAFebruary 20, 2018
Would not recommend a friend working here. Advancement is based off time more so than effort and productivity until later in career. Morale is low here.
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Secure job but too uptight
Technical Editor/Writer (Former Employee) –  New York, NYFebruary 9, 2018
Too much of an uptight military culture. There is no innovation despite what they claim. All rules and procedures must be followed and thinking outside of the box is punished.
Pros
great benefits
Cons
military culture, non-innovative
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4.0
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Overall, the environment is suitable for learning and contributing to the programs.
Principal Research Scientist (Former Employee) –  Schenectady, NYFebruary 1, 2018
Due to my broad research experience and education, I was involved in various projects and subjects, which I really enjoyed very much. At knolls new ideas and technical discussions welcomed and considered seriously. We worked all together as a team to accomplish the projects. All the works must be in detail, accurate, and tested precisely before being applied. Often theoretical modeling was performed in parallel with experiments to validate the experimental results. Each team as well as each individual has responsibility to perform the job as accurate as possible. During the development of new ideas and technologies we also worked with several research institutes and vendors. I learned how to communicate with vendors, give and take ideas, and work as a team. I learned the best way to overcome the issues is to discuss face to face. Regarding the management, it mostly depends on the manager personality. Overall, most of the managers are open and give scientists and engineers space to work with each other and then being briefed. Overall the environment is suitable to learn and contribute to the programs.
Pros
Occasionally such as Christmas holiday and thanksgiving we get free lunch
Cons
A few minutes coffee break is allowed
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4.0
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As a scientist and engineer, I enjoyed working at Knolls and RPI and I made scientific and technical contributions to the projects.
Principle scientist (Former Employee) –  Schenectady, NYFebruary 1, 2018
Due to my broad research experience and education, I was involved on variety of projects, which I enjoyed very much. New ideas and technical discussions welcomed and considered seriously. Many advanced equipment available for detail research and development. Due to sensitivity of the works, each work evaluated in detail and tested precisely to be sure everything is correct. Many research institutes and vendors were involved on the development of new ideas. I learned how to collaborate with vendors, give and take new ideas, and communicate with them. I learned the best way that a project advances and new ideas incorporated is to have open discussion face to face. Regarding the management, it depends on the personality of the managers. Many managers were very opened and leaved the science to scientists and engineers and give them space to work and debrief them on the progresses that was made. Overall, the goal was that we all work together as a team, help each other, and do our job to the best of our ability to complete projects.
Pros
Occasionally such as Christmas holiday and thanksgiving we had free lunch.
Cons
anyone can have a few minutes coffee break.
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5.0
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This is my Summary
NDT TECHNICIAN LEVEL II (Former Employee) –  West Mifflin, PAJanuary 19, 2018
My typical day at work was challenging working in Miltiary
envarioment is great. i was working as NDT Level II & Welding
doing Shear Wave Inspection. Learned a lot about the Military &
Navy, Marines, Airforce. The work place culture was very good &
friendly i was working with other Engineers. The hardest part of the job was walking around decks of ships & Submarines.
Pros
free lunches sometime
Cons
short breaks & Healthcare.
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terrible management, discrimination
Security Police Officer (Former Employee) –  Ballston Spa, NYJanuary 7, 2018
BMPC claims to give preference to veterans, but then they illegally investigate you based off a rumor that you have PTSD and find some technicality to terminate you on. Management is a complete joke...
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3.0
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Work at NRF
Associate Electrical Engineer (Current Employee) –  Arco, IDJanuary 5, 2018
Nuclear work has a lot of red-tape involved. The engineering is a bit dull and reduced to simple maintenance work. It is difficult to tinker and innovate.
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Secure job that offers little incentive
Electrical Engineering Technical Intern (Former Employee) –  Niskayuna, NYNovember 10, 2017
I'm a young guy who worked as an intern. Almost everyone I worked with was very nice and very eager to help. My manager was also a great guy. The pace of the work is incredibly slow. Lots of red tape, anything you need for a project you won't see for months (at least), no competitive spirit because there is no incentive to do well. As long as you keep showing up you won't get fired - maybe good for some people but not me. People literally fell asleep in almost every meeting I went to and no one batted an eye - very strange.
Pros
Job security, pay is decent
Cons
Little incentive to work hard, red tape hold up projects that take forever
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4.0
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Interesting work with job security and good work/life balance
Mechanical Engineer (Current Employee) –  Pittsburgh, PANovember 9, 2017
The company has a bunch of interesting work that can be challenging and rewarding. Most engineers perform analyses at computers, and some get to work in labs as test sponsors. You can gain a lot of experience with finite element analyses and technical writing. Depending on the group you work in there is a potential to do some design work, but much of the design is in test fixtures, tooling, and hardware.

It is nice to have a big site that includes office buildings, labs, and machine shops. The feel of being on a campus is enjoyable.

Requirements can be really tight on designs and analytical limits which can make work difficult at times, but that is part of the challenge. There is currently a lack of innovative culture there, but hopefully there will be a move to more new design and testing. Management can differ greatly based on the size of the site, and I was lucky to have management that supported my technical work and defended my decisions.

The greatest part is the work/life balance. Most engineers work on a 9/80 schedule and do not have to work extensively past their normal 9 hour days. The fact that we have lives outside of work that are important and make us who we are is respected, and we are not overworked with absurd hours most weeks throughout the year. This has greatly allowed me to do interesting things outside of work and not constantly feel under pressure of the job.
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3.0
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Great work life balance and job secuirty
Materials Engineer/ Non-Destructive Engineering (Current Employee) –  West Milton, NYSeptember 29, 2017
Would recommend working here. Great work life balance and job security, they are a little behind times on technology and pay, but overall it is a good place to work.
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4.0
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Amazing company in highly technical field
Quality Assurance Manager (Current Employee) –  Charleston, SCSeptember 2, 2017
NNL provides amazing growth opportunities for engineers looking for a challenging field and possessing a desire to serve their country. I would recommend NNL for any young engineer interested in nuclear power plant design and operations.
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Stupid Place to Work
Senior Nuclear Engineer (Former Employee) –  West Mifflin, PAAugust 27, 2017
If you enjoy filling out paperwork and having people actively prevent you from working, go to work here. If you love hypocrisy and doing the same stuff over and over, work here. This company did great work 30-40 years ago, and they've been coasting ever since with no desire to change whatsoever. They care more about passing fire-drills than doing work. All the managers fail upwards too, so you'll never respect your manager. Overall this place sucks.
Pros
Decent pay and time off.
Cons
The facilities suck and so do the people. The managers are engineers who fail upwards.
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3.0
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Great Technincal Work, Poor Culture
Lead Mechanical Engineer (Former Employee) –  Schenectady, NYMay 3, 2017
The techinical work is great, interesting, and fun. However, morale is low because of poor relationships between groups, below average compensation, and a perception that high performers are not sufficiently rewarded.
Pros
Very interesting work, fun to design reactors for the navy
Cons
Can't have any electronics including your phone on site. Poor culture and low morale
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Engineering Company
Technical Unit Manager (Current Employee) –  West Mifflin, PAJanuary 15, 2017
At Naval Nuclear Laboratory, we develop advanced naval nuclear propulsion technology, ensuring the safety and reliability of our Navy's submarine and aircraft carrier Fleets. We are proud to work closely with the Navy, training the Sailors who operate our reactors.
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Overall rating

2.7
Based on 23 reviews
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3.6Work/Life Balance
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