Nuclear Knowledge Management (NKM)

About the Program

Nuclear Knowledge Management has become an increasingly important element of the nuclear sector in recent years, resulting from a number of challenges and trends:

  • Countries with expanding nuclear programmes require skilled and trained human resources to design and operate future nuclear installations. Capacity building through training and education and transferring knowledge from centres of knowledge to centres of growth are key issues.
  • In countries with stagnating nuclear programmes, the challenge is to secure the human resources needed to sustain the safe operation of existing installations, including their decommissioning and related programmes for spent fuel and waste. Replacing retiring staff and attracting the young generation to a career in the nuclear field are key challenges.
  • Non-power applications of nuclear technologies require a stable or even growing base of nuclear knowledge and trained human resources, be it for cancer treatment or for food and agriculture. This need is present in all Member States using nuclear technologies, independent of the use of nuclear power.
  • Networking education and training and working on mutually accepted curricula can make studying nuclear subjects more attractive, facilitate exchange of human resources and contribute to the development of educational quality benchmarks.
  • The scientific and technical heritage of several decades of nuclear development, existing in a decentralized manner in many Member States with mature nuclear programmes, requires to be assessed, and valuable knowledge needs to be preserved for future use.
  • Access to existing nuclear knowledge can be improved in many cases, and sharing and pooling knowledge can contribute to development and innovation as well as facilitate effective decision making through-out all phases of a nuclear plant life-cycle

Recognizing the importance of these developments, nuclear knowledge management came to the forefront in the IAEA as a formal programme to address Member States priorities at the beginning of the 21st century. Since 2002, the IAEA General Conference includes nuclear knowledge management topics. The 58th Session of the IAEA General Conference of 2014 reiterated earlier resolutions on nuclear knowledge management that request the IAEA to develop and continue corresponding activities. A special subprogramme on nuclear knowledge management focuses on:

  • Developing methodologies and guidance documents for planning, designing and implementing nuclear knowledge management programmes;
  • Facilitating nuclear education, networking and experience exchange;
  • Assisting Member States by providing products and services for maintaining and preserving nuclear knowledge;
  • Promoting the use of state of the art knowledge management technologies and supporting interested Member States in their use.


We need to continue and build upon the good work that has been done in nuclear knowledge management over the past decade. Nuclear organizations are beginning to understand the vital link between knowledge management and safety. The success of peaceful nuclear technologies is directly tied to safety. However, specific and advanced levels of knowledge are typically needed to achieve and maintain the high levels of safety required. Appropriate technical expertise and experience must be developed and be available throughout the nuclear technology life-cycle. If we do not have a required technical knowledge, a full understanding of the potential consequences of our decisions and actions may not be possible, and safety may be compromised.

Effective decision making during design, licensing, procurement, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance, refurbishment, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities needs to be risk-informed and knowledge-driven. Nuclear technology is complex and brings with it inherent and unique risks that must be managed to acceptably low levels. Nuclear facilities may have very long life-cycles with changing operational conditions. Our ability to take safe decisions and actions is continually being threatened by the risk of knowledge loss. To ensure safety, we have a responsibility not only to establish adequate technical knowledge and experience in our nuclear organizations but also to maintain it. This is the reason why nuclear knowledge management is so important.

John de Grosbois
Section Head