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Next Generation Nuclear: The Third Intercontinental Nuclear Institute Goes Global

The programme brought together 28 young professionals from 19 countries, including countries in Africa, Middle East, Asia, South America, and Central America, in addition to the Eastern Europe region. (Photo: INI)

The Intercontinental Nuclear Institute (INI), which has taken place in July this year for the third time, has now expanded its mission to all countries worldwide. Initially a group fellowship programme for young professionals from Europe working in the nuclear power industry and relevant fields, INI 2017 welcomed 28 young professionals from 19 countries, including countries in Africa, Middle East, Asia, South America, and Central America, in addition to the Eastern Europe region.

The INI programme is held each year in the Czech Republic and the United States of America, and has become an important IAEA activity for sharing and disseminating intercontinental expertise, balancing advanced technical lectures with practical experience.

“Adding new countries to the programme, which previously consisted only of Europe region, significantly broadened the discussions and interactions among the fellows during the programme. Fellows explored project topics that captured the diversity of need from respective member states leading to deeper discussions on choices of technology and the process involved in making those decisions,” said Mr Sukesh Aghara, Director of the Nuclear Engineering Program at University of Massachusetts Lowell, and one of the INI’s two implementation co-Directors.

Organised by the IAEA’s Department of Technical Cooperation in cooperation with the Governments of the United States and Czech Republic, the INI aims to provide young professionals with knowledge on practical fundamentals of safe, secure and sustainable nuclear technologies.

 “This year we further enhanced hands-on activities in the programme, based on the feedback from last year. For example, we increased the dosimetry and radiochemistry exercise at Czech Technical University to a two-day activity which enabled fellows to practice in-depth radiation detection and measurement, working with radiological materials and state-of-art equipment,” said INI co-Director Mr Radek Skoda, Associate Professor in the Nuclear Engineering Department of Czech Technical University in Prague.

Young professionals from 19 countries  in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Asia, South America and Central America have taken part in the 2017 Intercontinental Nuclear Institute. (Photo: INI)

Fellows enjoyed the depth and breadth of the knowledge that is covered by the programme. Ms Anna Fortova, a Master Student studying Nuclear Power at Czech Technical University, noted the variety in the programme: “As nuclear engineer, I was educated to deal with technical problems but, until INI, not formally trained to identify and address the human factors that are equally important for the overall safety and security of a nuclear system.”

Another fellow noted “In just four weeks we visited many facilities on two continents including operating nuclear power plants, a uranium mine, state of the art research facilities at Řež, UMass and MIT, a nuclear policy making centre at Harvard University, an advanced supercomputing facility in west Massachusetts and grid control centre in New England which provided an entire picture of nuclear energy generation and delivery.”

INI is a very comprehensive fellowship programme, as it provides significant technical depth and introduces a breadth of nuclear technology hands-on applications that no other programme offers. A unique feature of the Institute is that it takes place in two different countries on different continents, providing provide unique opportunities for fellows to see firsthand the global reach of nuclear technology. During INI 2018, students were able to physically observe the Mo-99/Tc-99m supply chain network in action.

The fellows witnessed a Mo-99 shipping container being shipped from Řež, and one week later, they observed this material manufactured into Tc-99m generators which were shipped to hospitals in 24 hours,” explained Mr Aghara. An INI fellow highlighted the value of this perspective at the end of the programme: “I have a new understanding and appreciation on how wide and global nuclear technology is.”  

IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Technical Cooperation, Mr Dazhu Yang, joined guests from the IAEA, the US Department of Energy and the Czech Embassy to the US to listen to fellows speak about their experiences in the 4-week programme and to discuss their final group projects. Mr Dazhu Yang noted: “A key role of the IAEA is to assist Member States to establish a nuclear power and safety infrastructure which includes developing their human resources by training the right people as these countries pursue their sustainable development goals.” 

“I was very impressed by the INI programme and could see that this is an extremely worthwhile programme. (…) INI is helping develop a competent and capable workforce so that nuclear power generation will continue to be safe, secure, and sustainable. The Department of Energy is pleased that its contributions to the Peaceful Use Initiative are being used in such an effective manner
John Kelly, Chief Technology Officer, US Department of Energy

INI 2017 fellows visiting the uranium mine DIAMO in Stráž pod Ralskem, Czech Republic. (Photo: INI)

The US Government provides resources for the INI programme through the IAEA’s Peaceful Use Initiative, towards development of knowledgeable professionals for the future of nuclear energy as Mr John Kelly, Chief Technology Officer, US Department of Energy, who interacted with the fellows in the last week of the programme, explained: “I was very impressed by the INI program and could see that this is an extremely worthwhile programme. The enthusiasm of the fellows was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting them. INI is helping develop a competent and capable workforce so that nuclear power generation will continue to be safe, secure, and sustainable. The Department of Energy is pleased that its contributions to the Peaceful Use Initiative are being used in such an effective manner.”

Students are encouraged to keep in contact with each other following their participation in the programme, forming a network of young professionals who will bridge technology and knowledge gaps in the nuclear power sector through experiential learning.

The IAEA, the US and Czech governments and the Directors of INI, Messrs Aghara and Skoda, are already gearing up for another global session of INI in 2018. Interested young professionals working in nuclear engineering and relevant fields are encouraged to visit the programme’s webpage regularly. All details for interested applicants for INI 2018 are available here.

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