More than 270 participants from 50 countries and 10 international organisations are in Vienna for a Conference on Knowledge Management in Nuclear Facilities.
The conference features an opening policy forum and four thematic sessions focusing on the role of nuclear knowledge management. Areas covered include the safe operation of existing plants, the achievement of gains in economic and operational performance of nuclear facilities, the preservation of existing knowledge and its use in relation to future innovations, and the smooth and effective transfer of knowledge to the next generation.
In his opening statement, Mr. Yuri Sokolov, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy of the IAEA, spoke of the importance of being able to transfer the experience accrued in the nuclear field over the past decades to the next generation.
"Nuclear knowledge has been developed and accumulated over decades of research and development (R&D). Our present generation is the owner and custodian of that body of nuclear knowledge," he said.
But he also warned the audience of the difficulties posed by this task and of the danger of losing invaluable knowledge, especially because of demographic gaps in the professional workforce, in the near future. "Unfortunately, the present status of nuclear knowledge and its management leave much room for improvement. Since nuclear knowledge is unique in many ways, its management requires specific programmes and has specific objectives. Without diligence in managing this knowledge, substantial portions could be lost due to staff retirements and to disuse and disposal associated with changing priorities," he commented.
In his address, Mr. Tomihiro Taniguchi, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, also stressed the importance of the human factor in knowledge management for issues relating to nuclear safety and security. "Knowledge management is vitally important for nuclear safety. Not only scientific knowledge, but also practical knowledge based on hands-on experience and international information-sharing are particularly relevant," he said.
He pointed out that transparency, openness and information-sharing are all practices that can contribute positively to the creation of an effective global safety knowledge culture. But, he warned, at a national level safety knowledge can only be achieved through a long, laborious process. "Safety knowledge cannot be acquired by a country, as a readily available commodity. It has to be created and nourished in the country, by the country and for the country," he said.
The International Conference on Knowledge Management in Nuclear Facilities is organized by the IAEA in cooperation with the European Atomic Forum (FORATOM), the European Commission (EC), the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (OECD/NEA), the World Nuclear Association (WNA) and the World Nuclear University (WNU).
A total of 145 papers, posters and keynote speeches are to be presented by experts, scientists and officials during the four-day event which is due to close on 21 June.