Hundreds of young nuclear scientists and professionals from all over the world met to map out future directions and challenges facing the industry at the third biennial International Youth Nuclear Congress (IYNC) held 9-14 May 2004 in Toronto, Canada.
"A World of Innovations" was the underlying theme of IYNC 2004, reflecting the viewpoint of the new generation of nuclear professionals, and aiming to stimulate innovative thinking and debate on all aspects of nuclear technology - from energy generation and industrial processes to medical applications and space travel.
Nuclear’s role in the energy mix was a key focus of the international congress. Students, young professionals and industry leaders alike spoke about the growing gap between electricity supply and demand, and the need for sustainable solutions to meet power shortfalls predicted in coming decades. Local Organising Chair, Adam McLean from Toronto University, said public perception that the nuclear industry was stagnant was wrong.
"Nuclear is far from dead. In Canada it employs over 100,000 people directly and indirectly and that’s going to last for a long, long time. People plug things into the wall but often don’t know where their electricity comes from. They receive medical treatment but often don’t realise its thanks to a nuclear application. The nuclear option is very much on the table for the future and Canada has shown it can be run competitively," Mr. McLean said. The United States alone needs 90,000 new nuclear workers in the next 10 years.
Issues of waste management, the nuclear fuel cycle, and the use of nuclear tools in medicine and space applications were among other topics addressed at the weeklong Congress. Communication was also on the agenda, with the IAEA running a two-day media workshop - sponsored by the Japanese Government - to equip tomorrow’s nuclear workforce with improved skills to handle the mass media.
"It is not just a matter of communicating technically," IAEA public information specialist Mr. Shinsuke Sato said. "The workshop helps participants become better communicators outside of the industry and with the public," Mr. Sato said.
While the older generation of nuclear scientists may not have been especially "media savvy", Mr. McLean says the younger generation at the Congress show great enthusiasm to be open, transparent and ready to help their friends, families and the public better understand nuclear issues.
More reports from the International Youth Nuclear Congress will be published on the IAEA.org "Youth Portal" in the weeks to come.