It is a pleasure for me to welcome you to the ICTP/IAEA School of Nuclear Energy Management. I would like to express my sincere thanks to ICTP and its Director, Professor Fernando Quevedo, and to the Government of Italy, for hosting this important event.
Nuclear power is facing a major challenge throughout the world following the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan five months ago. The accident, caused by an earthquake and tsunami of unprecedented severity undermined confidence in the safety of nuclear power in many countries.
I saw for myself just how powerful and destructive nature can be when I visited the Fukushima Daiichi plant a few weeks ago. But I was also deeply impressed by the passion and energy of the engineers and workers at the site who are determined to restore full control over the facility. Great progress has already been made.
I am also confident that the right lessons are being learned internationally. An IAEA Ministerial Conference, which I convened in Vienna in June, agreed on significant measures to improve nuclear safety, emergency preparedness and radiation protection of people and the environment throughout the world.
These include strengthening IAEA Safety Standards, systematically reviewing the safety of all nuclear power plants - including by expanding the IAEA's programme of expert peer review missions - and enhancing the effectiveness of national nuclear regulatory bodies.
Despite Fukushima Daiichi, global use of nuclear power will continue to grow in the coming decades. The factors that had contributed to increasing interest in nuclear power before the accident, such as persistent energy demand growth due to population growth and economic development, and concerns of climate change largely remain the same. Even the few countries which have decided to abandon nuclear power will still need a highly qualified workforce for decades to come - to run existing nuclear power plants, to decommission them and to ensure the safe disposal of nuclear waste. Countries which have ambitious expansion plans, and what the IAEA calls "newcomer" countries, also have considerable needs for new nuclear expertise.
The generation of professionals who built and led the nuclear power industry for the past 50 years is approaching retirement. Many countries are having difficulty in educating an adequate number of new nuclear specialists to take their place.
This School of Nuclear Management, organized jointly by the IAEA and the ICTP, has been created to help address this problem.
This training represents a unique educational experience for promising young professionals from developing countries, particularly those which are considering adding nuclear power to their energy mix. It is one of the ways in which the IAEA helps Member States to train future leaders in the field of nuclear energy.
The next generation of nuclear managers will have to deal with complex issues facing their own countries and the international nuclear community. You come from many different countries which require different approaches, but your objective is the same: to secure the most advanced education and training in nuclear science and technology.
For countries with expanding nuclear power programmes, the challenge is to scale up their existing education and training in order to have the required qualified workforce in time.
Countries planning to supply nuclear technology to others must not only meet their national human resource needs, but also be able to transfer education and training capacity, together with the technology they provide.
Finally, countries embarking on nuclear power need to avoid becoming too dependent on their technology suppliers. They need to develop their own home-grown expertise and skills base.
The Agency can help Member States to develop country-specific policies for nuclear power development, for human resource development, and for education, training and knowledge management - all in support of the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
During this three-week training programme, you will learn about the most recent technological developments in nuclear energy. You will acquire specific nuclear knowledge, develop a broader international perspective and establish lasting bonds with peers from many different countries who have shared interests and face similar challenges.
I hope you will be inspired to commit yourselves to advancing the global contribution of nuclear science and technology to human well-being and that you will return home better equipped to help your countries to manage nuclear power programmes responsibly, safely and sustainably.
I wish you every success with your nuclear management training.