Which is more dangerous, Nuclear Welding or Underwater Welding?
Often, when we use the term Nuclear in welding we are talking about high weld quality. Nuclear welding can be carried out in a fab shop miles from a Nuclear Power Plant, or right there on site during construction.
In these cases, Nuclear implies highly skilled workers doing welding that will be Radiographically (RT) or Ultrasonically (UT) tested to a very strict code. Welds need to be free from defects; fit-ups need to be accurate and free from added stress. Pipe and fittings need to be manufactured in such a way as to be traceable as do welding consumables such as electrodes and welding rods.
To be a Welder on a Nuclear job site requires high skill. A failed X-Ray can cost big money and probably your job.
Underwater welding brings images of a diver striking a shielded metal arc weld (SMAW/Stick) on some moss covered oil platform deep in the Gulf with Scuttle hovering over head and Flounder swimming by. Like Nuclear, underwater welding also requires a high degree of skill. The cost of getting a skilled worker to that repair is high and everybody involved has a “fix it once, fix it right” attitude. I once watched as a welder had to submerse himself in to a 24 in. diameter bridge footing form to re-weld a damaged piece of re-bar.
That was a spendy repair.
In addition to being a skilled Welder, the underwater Welder needs to be a skilled diver. They need to be able to manipulate the welding electrode while dressed in an outfit reminiscant of Neil Armstrong. He/She may work directly in the water “wet welding” or do “hyperbaric welding” (dry welding) where a positive pressure enclosure is attached to the hull of a ship. The water is removed from the chamber and the Welder is in a dry environment deep below the surface.
So the Underwater Welder sounds as though he would have the more dangerous job, but did you know there is such thing as an Underwater Nuclear Welder.
This dude has to suit up, climb into the cooling pool that is filled with 100 degree, radioactively contaminated water, and complete a weld repair.
Now that’s crazy!
All these Welders require a high degree of skill. Not just in welding, but in several other categories, diving, working in confined space, working with restrictions on your hands, your legs your sight, working with an oxygen supply, and climbing, climbing, climbing.
Which brings me to the Welder who has the highest chance of a fatality on the job; five or fifty stories up, walking an I- beam, attached to a 6 ft. tether, dragging a “beamer” close behind. I believe statistics show, the Iron Worker is the Welder who is most likely to suffer a fatality on the job.
It’s good work if you can get it, but pay attention to your Trainer and be careful. Somebody expects you home tonight.