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Meeting Challenges to Ensure the Future Nuclear Workforce Capability: IAEA International Conference Opens in Gyeongju

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The IAEA's Third International Conference on Human Resource Development for Nuclear Power Programmes will focus on a particular theme for each of the four days. The opening day's theme was "Attract, Recruit and Retain a High Quality Nuclear Workforce", Gyeongju, 28 May 2018. (Photo: M. van Sickle/IAEA)

The nuclear sector relies heavily on a highly qualified competent and specialized  workforce for its safety, sustainability and high levels of performance. Countries already operating nuclear facilities, as well as those introducing nuclear power, need to ensure that they have the right workforce not only today, but also in the future. Many of the human resource development needs are common across the entire nuclear power community.

Some 520 participants from 51 Member States and five international organizations are meeting this week in Gyeongju, Republic of Korea, to review the global situation in human resource development and discuss the future of the nuclear labour market.

The four-day International Conference on Human Resource Development for Nuclear Power Programmes: Meeting Challenges to Ensure the Future Nuclear Workforce Capability is the third such conference organized by the IAEA, following previous gatherings in Vienna in 2014 and Abu Dhabi in 2010.

"No matter how high-tech, automatized and digitized the machinery is, in the end, you need people to run it. Skilled people. People who have absorbed the safety culture in their hearts and minds,” said Mikhail Chudakov, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy at the opening session of the conference. “Amidst the stiff competition between high-tech sectors, attracting and retaining a high quality nuclear workforce is becoming challenging.”

In 12 plenary sessions and four panel discussions, the conference will cover four main themes: attracting, recruiting and retaining a high quality nuclear workforce; developing individuals and teams within organizations; education, training and qualification of a nuclear workforce; and organizational culture and its impact on the workforce.

Participants will exchange information on national and international policies and practices; discuss the importance of building competence in nuclear safety and security, and provide practical solutions that can be used at organizational, national and international levels to develop and maintain the human resources needed to support safe and sustainable nuclear power programmes.

Acquiring and retaining skilled personnel to ensure a competent workforce for all phases of a nuclear programme development is among the biggest challenges for the nuclear community. This ranges from new nuclear build to operational plants, to fuel cycle and waste management requirements into the decommissioning phase. It includes government organizations, supply chains, technical support organizations, research and development capability and owner/operators of nuclear power plants.

The IAEA supports its Member States in human resource development and workforce planning across the entire nuclear lifecycle. Some of this support is aimed at countries currently operating nuclear power plants while other support is provided to those countries embarking on a nuclear power programme for the first time. It assists in developing national and regional infrastructure that supports both the educational and vocational programmes needed to develop the full range of competencies related to nuclear power.

“Our experience is that every country has its own unique models for human resource development, and these are heavily influenced by economic, social and cultural factors,” said Chudakov. 

One unique aspect of the conference is an international student competition. Fostering the young generation’s interest in nuclear science and technology, the IAEA held an international competition for high school students and received 188 entries from 31 countries. Five finalist teams from Hungary, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea and the USA will present their projects during the conference, and the winner will be selected by the conference participants.

The conference is hosted by the Government of the Republic of Korea through the Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Company.

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