Upon successfully finishing Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Florida we moved on to Prototype Training. When I was in there were three of them: Balston Spa, NY, Windsor, CT and Idaho Falls, ID. My friends and I opted to go to Ballston Spa. We rented a house just outside of Saratoga Springs, NY and proceeded to do shift-work education on a real-deal nuclear power plant. I seem to remember this being some odd rotation of shifts; days, mids, and nights. It is a bit of a blur actually. A lot of sleep deprivation, studying in cubicles, standing watch and getting "grilled" by staff about different systems to get signatures in a qualification book.
It was a bit like medical school in this way. You had to stand so many watches at various watch stations, learn each system and get "checked out" on all that. Once you obtained enough signatures and knew enough, you could do active drill-sets on the plant. It was a see one, do one, teach one kind of system. It was high stress.
If you can imagine standing watch surrounded by gages, pipes, valves, steam, turbines and other noisy equipment and then having an alarm go off and you have to figure out by looking at all your indications what was going wrong. You had to do this quickly and usually with someone yelling at you to figure it out or the world would come to an end (probably didn't say that but that is the mark left on my soul). You would try to calmly look at gages (temperatures and pressures usually) and listen to the turbines trying to figure out what valve would have to be closed/opened to cause whatever catastrophe they had "cooked up". Plant diagrams would reel through your head, theory, everything you had at your disposal would be brought to bare to figure it out. You always figured it out but sometimes it took a lot of yelling. Then you went about figuring out what to do about it... this also many times involved stern coaching. You then fixed the catastrophe and that drill was over... you would continue to take down your logs as if none of this happened while they reset for another drill. This went on over and over again for an entire 12 hour shift. I vilify it a bit but it was fun, neat and very educational.
Once you got all your signatures in your book (6 months), you would stand for an oral exam conducted by several officers and enlisted personnel (there may also have been a written exam but the oral exam is what caused the most stress). You were alone in a room, one chalkboard and surrounded by power plant manuals; facing these professional, experienced nuclear operators. Their job was to make sure you knew enough and were confident enough to go to sea and run a nuclear power plant. My job was to prove it. They would ask questions... some were theory or conceptual, some were practical... everything was on the table... any system... any casualty. You would draw out explanations, systems, valves, control mechanisms, electrical diagrams, whatever they asked. The only cardinal sin was not looking up the answer if you didn't know the answer. I never reached for a manual. I am not sure if anyone did because nobody really talked much about their experience in that room. I was first in my class to qualify and it was amazing. Then I got to stand watch without staff oversight... and help other students through drills.
I was then selected for Engineering Laboratory Technician school. All my friends left and went to their submarines.. I stayed for an additional 3 months to study nuclear chemistry, steam plant chemistry and radiologic controls. This was a similar system.. the thing that made this tough is I had to switch plants. So I had to learn an entirely new layout and set of plant diagrams and take more classes. This too ended with an oral exam. I passed it also and was sent to serve aboard a submarine. I met my boat in Toulon France.