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Nuclear letdown: Navy suspends 30 instructors at reactor school for alleged cheating

The nuclear officer cheating scandal seems to have spread to another branch of the U.S. military.

About 30 senior instructors at the Navy’s nuclear propulsion school in Charleston, S.C., have been suspended from duty for alleged cheating on exams, U.S. Navy officials said Tuesday.

Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, left, accompanied by Adm. John M. Richardson, director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon, on Tueesday, Feb. 4, 2014.

The instructors, the officials said, were stripped of their certification pending a Navy investigation.

And the Navy investigation follows the suspension of 92 Air Force nuclear missile launch officers who were caught in a similar cheating scandal at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

That scandal began with 32 officers implicated before nearly tripling as the investigation progressed.

The Air Force probe was sparked when another instructor came forward to report the alleged cheating, which included sharing the answers to pending exams.

The senior enlisted sailors involved are all instructors involved in re-certification for those who train the Navy’s nuclear propulsion course. 

Navy officials say these sailors are involved in training for nuclear power plants on Navy ships and submarines and are not connected to any nuclear weapons program.

While the precise number of officers accused of cheating was not revealed, Navy officials told NBC News about 30 involved. 

Adm. Jonathan Greenert, the chief of naval operations, told reporters in a Pentagon news briefing he was disturbed by the breakdown in discipline at Charleston. 

"To say I am disappointed would be an understatement," Greenert said, according to The Associated Press. "We expect more from our sailors — especially our senior sailors."

In the Air Force case, the officers allegedly passed around answers to monthly proficiency exams on their cell phones.

In the wake of that cheating scandal -- as well reports of drug abuse and other failures -- Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered a sweeping review of the U.S. military’s nuclear weapons mission.