In the light of an expanding world population, the growing demand for energy and the need to counteract environmental degradation, many Member States are focusing their interests on nuclear power, as part of a properly balanced energy portfolio. Attracted by this benign source of energy, countries are increasing their investments and making plans to pursue new nuclear power programs or continue the existing ones.
The increasing number of new-build projects carries with it a need for well-prepared manpower in nuclear energy. Whether it is to ensure diligence or oversight in design, manufacture, construction or operation, new projects require the deployment of highly trained and motivated nuclear workers with sufficient levels of nuclear experience and expertise.
There is a clear need to educate, train and mentor a new nuclear workforce, one capable of guaranteeing the safety and security standards and the required legal and regulatory frameworks necessary to support nuclear power plants. A number of countries have developed integrated approaches to address this issue, which involve government, industry and academia working together towards building a competent nuclear workforce.
During the IAEA 56th General Conference, universities and other educational and training institutes in Member States shared their experiences in international networking and collaboration, integration and outreach. They presented different approaches to the common goal of building a competent nuclear workforce. Member States expressed their reliance on the IAEA's capacity building support and emphasized the importance of developing the nuclear workforce to ensure a robust culture of safety.
"The technological complexity and the need for the highest levels of safety assurance of a nuclear power plant requires a highly competent and safety conscious workforce," said Brian Molloy, Head of Human Resources in the IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy, during the event. "This in turn requires a high quality education system and comprehensive training programmes, sometimes lasting several years, to ensure the competence of the personnel involved in all stages of the nuclear power programme."
Taking into consideration that the expected lifespan for new nuclear plants is estimated at 60+ years of operation, there is a clear need for a new generation of staff that will ensure the safe operation of these plants. It is critical for Member States to invest in education, training and capacity building of those people who will build, operate and eventually decommission the plants. Furthermore, despite ultimate responsibility lying with the Member State receiving the new nuclear power plant, the technology suppliers have a critical role in helping to create this culture, especially in the developing world.
The IAEA promotes the spread of nuclear knowledge in its Member States through knowledge transfer, human resource development, education, training, outreach missions and capacity building in support of nuclear power programs.
The IAEA created in 2006 a Nuclear Knowledge Management (NKM) program to address the need of improving knowledge exchange in the light of a growing number of nuclear plants. It focuses on developing methodologies and guidance documents, facilitating nuclear education, training and information exchange, and assisting Member States in maintaining and preserving nuclear knowledge.