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Intercontinental Nuclear Institute Prepares Next Generation of Industry Professionals

Temelin Nuclear Power Plant simulator exercise. (Photo: V. Šísl)

The Intercontinental Nuclear Institute (INI) brought together 27 fellows from 13 European countries in a learning journey across continents. Held for the second year with support from the IAEA, the INI programme provides experiential learning to promising graduate students and young professionals in the fields of nuclear science and technology, who will be the future experts leading the nuclear power industry.

 “The INI programme is designed to leverage the existing expertise and create a network of young professionals who will bridge the technology and knowledge gaps in the nuclear power sector,” said Sukesh Aghara, INI’s co-director. “Hands-on activities and technical visits are the bedrock of INI’s design, which started last year as a pilot programme.”

The four-week programme, held from 27 June to 22 July, is a joint initiative between the U.S.-Czech Civil Nuclear Cooperation Centre (CNCC) in Prague and the University of Massachusetts at Lowell (UML). With major contributions from the United States, the INI is supported by the Peaceful Uses Initiative (PUI), which the IAEA launched in 2010 to help with its technical cooperation projects.

INI 2016 offered fellows opportunities for capacity building, technical engagement and global dialogue in the fields of nuclear science and power reactor technology. With technical oversight from the IAEA and the mentoring of specialists in the fields of nuclear science and technology, the fellows explored topics such as nuclear safety and security, radiation detection and measurement, non-proliferation and physical protection.

The participants, many of whom had never seen a nuclear reactor before, gained a broader perspective thanks to the lectures, practical exercises and mentoring at nuclear installations both in the Czech Republic and the United States.

Compared to last year’s programme, the 2016 INI curriculum included enhanced activities and technical visits.  “We took feedback very seriously and made a few changes to INI 2016’s content,” said Radek Skoda, co-director of the Institute. “We included a uranium mine visit, and we expanded the radiochemistry, detection and dosimetry lab sessions.”

INI 2016 was not just another training programme. It was a wealth of experience that we gained from lectures, site visits and mentored group projects.
Ebru Ekici, Computer engineer, Turkish Atomic Energy Authority.

INI 2016 Fellows visiting the heat exchangers for the Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Centre in Holyoke, MA (Photo: S. K. Aghara)

The programme included trips to the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth, Massachusetts, the Seabrook nuclear power plant in New Hampshire and the Temelin Nuclear Power Station in the Czech Republic, where participants got a closer look at the operation of nuclear power plants.

“INI 2016 was not just another training programme,” said Ebru Ekici, a fellow from the Turkish Atomic Energy Authority. “It is a wealth of experience that we gained from lectures, site visits and mentored group projects.”

The fellows also had the opportunity to visit the grid control centre in the ISO New England Facility in Holyoke, where they gained insight into the function of the grid system and its importance for the operation of nuclear generating units. Moreover, they attended policy discussions at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Centre and visited the MIT Test Reactor.

“The unique nature of the INI programme, combining classroom learning with practical experience, helps to develop students’ higher cognitive skills, which is key to developing future industry leaders in their fields,” said David Drury, Technical Head for Management and Human Resources at IAEA’s Nuclear Energy Department. “The programme really helps in preparing the minds that will contribute to safe, effective and sustainable nuclear power programmes.”

Networking across the Atlantic

Engaging with peers and staying connected was an integral part of the INI experience. Participants said the fellowship was an opportunity for them to better understand the different global perspectives and conversations on the nuclear industry.

“It was amazing to see how people from various backgrounds viewed the same topic differently,” said Barbara Basarabova, a Ph.D. student at the Czech Technical University in Prague. “But I could also see the potential of communication and dialogue, how by working together, we can solve problems.”

INI’s organizers are considering expanding the programme beyond Europe, according to Martin Krause, Director of the Europe Division at IAEA’s Department of Technical Cooperation. Speaking at INI’s closing ceremony at UML, Krause said the feedback received on INI 2016 shows that the programme “has once again succeeded at creating enthusiasm, forging friendships and enhancing knowledge among young professionals of the nuclear industry network.”

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