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RECONNECTing with Mentors: IAEA and the Intercontinental Nuclear Institute Organize E-Reunion for Young Professionals

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Christoph Henrich, IAEA Programme Management Officer, moderates a discussion taking place among INI alumni in one of the ‘breakout sessions.’ (Photo: O. Yusuf/IAEA)

On 7 July 2020, nearly 50 young professionals gathered remotely to hear from IAEA experts, engage with leaders in the nuclear field and share experiences with fellow graduates during a virtual networking event. The participants were alumni of the annual four-week training course organized by the Intercontinental Nuclear Institute (INI) and the IAEA, held in the Czech Republic and the United States. INI is designed to familiarize students and early- and mid-career professionals with the fundamentals of nuclear energy, reactor design, nuclear power plant  operation and fuel cycle management.

“Throughout the INI programme, the fellows, mentors and speakers spend time together exchanging ideas and discussing global nuclear topics over an extended span of time. As a result, deep relationships are formed that negate traditional geographical boundaries,” said Sukesh Aghara, Co-Director of INI and a professor at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. “The benefit for the fellows as a result of participating in this programme is not only expanded knowledge, but also the chance to participate in an expanded professional network.”

Since its establishment in 2015, INI has equipped young nuclear professionals with practical information related to the safe, secure and sustainable generation of nuclear power. (Photo: INI)

Since its establishment in 2015, INI has equipped young nuclear professionals with practical information related to the safe, secure and sustainable generation of nuclear power. Supported through the IAEA’s technical cooperation programme[1], coursework at the institute is hosted by partner organizations in Prague and in Lowell, Massachusetts. Engaging globally with peers and connecting to colleagues and counterparts across the nuclear industry has traditionally been a core component of the annual INI experience. This year, however, due to continuing travel restrictions, it has not been possible to conduct the course. Instead, a digital engagement meeting was organized to give former INI cohorts and graduates the opportunity to reconnect and share their experiences.

”Investing time and energy to develop the next generation of diverse, knowledgeable, capable and responsible nuclear professionals is a personal priority as I enter the final phase of a long, nuclear career. The INI’s good work provided an excellent opportunity to pursue that objective,” said Ed Bradley, a speaker at the event and a Team Leader of Nuclear Power Plant Operation and Engineering Support in the IAEA’s Department of Nuclear Energy, which provides technical oversight of the INI programme.

Entitled ‘RECONNECT’, the two-hour event brought together 47 alumni from 27 countries, initially in six separate breakout rooms that corresponded to each cohort of training course graduates from 2015 to 2019. This gave the former INI fellows and alumni a chance to catch up with each other and to engage in a facilitated discussion on how INI had helped familiarize them with international perspectives and to participate in ongoing conversations unfolding throughout the nuclear industry since the inauguration of the programme in 2015.

“Ghana’s ambition to introduce nuclear power is well-known and, right now, we’re awaiting a final government decision on the matter,” explained Yvonne Dzovor, an engineer at Ghana’s Bui Power Authority. “My experience at INI 2019 has opened my eyes regarding the importance of security and safety in the industry and, today, as a result of my participation at INI, I’m pursuing work in the field of probabilistic safety assessments.”

The next iteration of the Intercontinental Nuclear Institute is tentatively scheduled to take place from 24 May to 18 June, 2021. (Photo: INI)

Following the exchange in the virtual breakout rooms, participants were automatically moved to a central conference room, where they listened to a technical presentation by Hadid Subki, a Nuclear Engineer at the IAEA, who provided an overview of emerging small modular reactor (SMR) designs and the future applications of the technology. Ed Bradley delivered a subsequent presentation, describing how the IAEA responded to COVID-19 and continued to provide support to countries with operating nuclear power plants in the midst of the pandemic.

“These presentations and others made during the course of INI 2019 have helped me and my peers from other newcomer countries to envisage a path forward toward our energy ambitions and to consider the experience and approaches of colleagues in countries around the world,” said Ahmet Öztürk, a Programme Manager at EUAS International ICC, the largest electric power company in Turkey.

Finally, Christoph Henrich, the IAEA Programme Management Officer supervising the ongoing project,  announced the organization of the 2021 edition of the Intercontinental Nuclear Institute, which is scheduled to take place between 24 May and 18 June, 2021.

 “We organised today’s event to facilitate virtual networking across the INI Alumni cohorts and to revive the global INI Alumni network,” said Henrich “Today, it’s evident that a community of INI fellows from around the world has emerged, and we want to nurture this unique community of nuclear professionals.”

[1] RER2017, ‘Assessing the Role of Low Carbon Energy Technologies for Climate Change Mitigation’

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