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The World Nuclear University: Addressing Global Needs

Vienna, Austria

4 September 2003 | London, UK
Inauguration Ceremony, World Nuclear University

Good morning and thank you.

Let me first offer my congratulations to the World Nuclear Association - and in particular let me congratulate Mr. John Ritch for his leadership and for once again showing himself to be a man of both vision and action.

For those of us in the nuclear field, it is clear that nuclear power holds great potential to provide the energy needed for global development while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to a recent study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, even if nuclear power were only to maintain its current 16% share of the world electricity market, it would require the construction of 700 new 1000 MWe reactors by the year 2050. Obviously, this effort cannot take place without the necessary human resources. And even if no new reactors were to be constructed, the industry would require a substantial influx of new workers in order to maintain the safe operation - and subsequent decommissioning - of existing plants.

For some time, there has been a growing awareness of the need for succession planning in the nuclear industry, to ensure that we cultivate a new generation of young people with the proper education and skills to replace the aging nuclear workforce as its members retire. Today’s inauguration of the ‘World Nuclear University’ is the most substantive action taken to date to address this need.

This is a challenge, because the widespread perception clearly exists that nuclear energy is a dying field. Relatively few members of the public are aware of the array of nuclear energy applications that improve the quality of modern life, nor of the advances in safety and efficiency that are making nuclear power a more competitive source of electricity generation. Many universities have truncated or eliminated their nuclear science and engineering programmes, and governments have in many cases reduced or withdrawn their support for the nuclear education programmes that remain.

Given the IAEA’s role in the transfer of nuclear technology - both for power and non-power applications - training and education forms a significant part of the services we provide to our Member States. Of the $70 million the Agency spends annually on addressing development needs through our technical co-operation programme, a full 30% is spent on training and capacity building. Since 1970, we have trained over 80,000 scientists and specialists from developing countries in various aspects of nuclear science and technology. In recent years, under an Agency programme called ‘Managing Nuclear Knowledge’, we have been working with our Member States to better understand their current and anticipated future shortfalls in nuclear education - related both to building additional capacity and succession planning for the existing workforce.

Against this backdrop, the inauguration of the World Nuclear University is a most welcome development, and the IAEA stands ready to work with the WNA and the other founding supporters and initial participants, to ensure the success of this endeavour. The Agency will maintain close co-ordination with the WNA, and will also use its information network to exchange and publicize information on the WNU.

In addition, we hope to explore the potential for co-operation in other ways, such as:

    • Participation in WNU studies to assess the nuclear training and education needs of participating countries;
    • Assisting in the development and review of standardized WNU course content and curricula;

 

    • Developing ‘distance learning classrooms’ and Internet-based learning to maximize the accessibility of WNU courses to IAEA Member States;

 

    • Enabling free access for all WNU participants to the Agency’s International Nuclear Information System (INIS); and

 

  • Collaboration with the WNU on joint meetings of mutual interest.

The IAEA, with its constituency of 135 Member States, is hopeful that this will truly become a World Nuclear University. Almost 2 billion people, nearly one third of the population of the planet, remain without access to modern energy supplies - a shortfall that could be addressed, at least in part, by nuclear energy. But any major expansion in the future use of nuclear power will only be feasible if the nuclear industry is successful in developing innovative reactor and fuel cycle technology - as well as operational and regulatory approaches - that effectively address concerns related to cost competitiveness, safety and security, proliferation resistance and waste disposal.

And global development needs go well beyond the electricity sector. More than one sixth of the world’s population lives in areas without adequate access to safe drinking water - a growing problem that nuclear technology can help to address through seawater desalination and the expanded use of isotope hydrology to better manage scarce water resources. Similar problems exist in areas such as crop production and food supply, access to nuclear medicine, and the availability of modern industrial techniques in developing countries.

The IAEA’s recognition of these situations underlies our assistance to Member States, through which we try to address areas of high national priority wherever nuclear technology provides the best option for success. A significant part of that effort lies in the development of human capacity - through training and education in how to apply nuclear technology safely and effectively.

"Atoms for Peace" is a vision nearly five decades old, focused on using nuclear science for the advancement of humankind. It is my hope that this ‘World Nuclear University’ can be an effective instrument towards the achievement of that vision.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018

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