• English
  • العربية
  • 中文
  • Français
  • Русский
  • Español

You are here

Test and Learn: IAEA Conducts Pilot Virtual School on Nuclear and Radiological Leadership for Safety


During a pilot course of the new virtual School on Nuclear and Radiological Leadership for Safety, 16 young professionals from across the IAEA discussed the importance of safety culture in nuclear safety. The course will now be offered to countries around the world.

The links between an organization’s safety culture, leadership and decision-making, as well as the role of the IAEA safety standards in providing a robust framework to ensure high level of nuclear safety were among the key topics covered during a four-day pilot of a virtual School on Nuclear and Radiological Leadership for Safety.

The school – for the first time in virtual form – took place from 28 June to 1 July, with the participation of 16 young nuclear professionals from across the IAEA Secretariat. Lessons learned from the pilot will be used to improve the course, which the IAEA will then offer to countries in both a virtual and in-person format.

The school aims to raise awareness about the role of leadership in nuclear and radiological safety among early to mid-career nuclear professionals, the safety leaders of the future. First held in a traditional physical format in 2017, the course enables participants to expand their practical understanding of leadership for safety through interactive exercises and case study analysis and equips them with tools to sustain and enhance safety at nuclear facilities in their daily work.

This school encourages tomorrow’s leaders to foster the safe and secure implementation of the peaceful applications of nuclear science and technology,” said Lydie Evrard, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. “It provides great support in raising awareness on the benefits of the IAEA Safety Standards' application.”

Before the COVID-19 pandemic started hindering international travel, eight training programmes had been held in France, Mexico, India, Turkey, Brazil, Pakistan, Morocco and Japan, with a total of more than 235 participants from 65 countries.

The virtual version of the school has been developed in response to the pandemic by experts including senior operators, regulators and behavioural scientists. Every item in the programme links back to the IAEA General Safety Requirements. In practical exercise sessions called “challenges during a nuclear power plant outage”, participants learned the importance of focusing on safety even when there is pressure to complete a task quickly. They learned how a strong internal safety culture can prevent accidents.

Skills such as good internal and external communication, active listening, encouraging feedback and keeping an open mind were highlighted as critical factors to being a good leader for safety. Participants also learned about the effect of sudden stress on one’s ability to perform and its impact on decision-making. They learned the importance of keeping calm, following safety processes and swiftly informing line managers on actions taken to ensure safety.

“In an organization, anyone who has a strong ownership and commitment to safety is a leader for safety, regardless of their role in the hierarchy. The aim is for all participants to complete the school with that ingrained in their minds,” said Shahid Mallick, Head of the IAEA Programme, Strategy and Coordination Section. “This virtual school held internally provided a useful platform for all involved to acquire a better understanding on how we can adapt our efforts to support countries worldwide in enhancing leadership in safety.”

A press conference simulation about a leak of radioactive material to the environment enabled participants to engage in active stakeholder role playing and highlight the value of communication based on facts and consensus building.

The school was initially developed in response to a gap underlined in the IAEA Director General’s 2015 report on the Fukushima Daiichi Accident, the need for a systemic approach to nuclear safety, and is co-funded by the European Union.

Said Rayan Dankar, a participant from the IAEA Incident and Emergency Centre: “I have learned a lot about different steps one can take to become a leader for safety. I learned a lot from the thoughts and experiences the experts and participants have shared, about the importance of the IAEA safety standards, and how open communication and trust are vital in supporting efforts to strengthen safety.”

Stay in touch