The NEA fosters initiatives in nuclear education to address member country concerns. The NEA’s work in this area has been to support investment in the education and training of the next generation as well as to provide a platform to collectively address nuclear education challenges and inform policy makers about proposed solutions.
Efforts to retain knowledge, focus on human capital issues and stimulate technological innovation have thrived since 2019 with the launch of two major activities in nuclear education, training and knowledge management.
The NEA Nuclear Education, Skills and Technology (NEST) Framework was launched in 2019 to promote international collaboration and knowledge transfer through hands-on training activities carried out in multi-national projects addressing challenges and real-world issues in nuclear science and technology.
The NEST Framework currently includes six projects:
- Hydrogen containment experiments for reactor safety (HYMERES),
- Small modular reactors (SMRs),
- Advanced remote technology and robotics for decommissioning (ARTERD),
- Radioactive waste management of i‑graphite,
- Medical applications, nuclear technologies, radioprotection and safety (MANTRAS), and
- Building competence, Expert knowledge, Applied techniques, Safe decommissioning, Train fellows (BEAST).
These international and multidisciplinary projects offer NEST Fellows (Masters, PhD and young professionals) a chance to develop their skills and acquire practical experience under the supervision of leading experts in the field, so-called NEST mentors
A second initiative the Agency has established is the Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy. Launched in 2021, the Global Forum seeks to engage with academic institutions that are responsible for developing the next generation of experts in the nuclear sector. The Global Forum is a platform for dialogue and sustained co-operation amongst academic institutions, policy makers and key stakeholders in the nuclear energy sector and civil society to address collectively nuclear education challenges. The idea is to bring together studies and analysis on the future of the nuclear sector, with a particular focus on human capital and academic issues. The work of the Global Forum will be disseminated through symposia as venues for academic experts and others to address emerging issues and propose solutions.
The Global Forum currently gathers around 40 members working on addressing the current challenges in gender balance, the future of nuclear engineering education, the relationship between nuclear energy and society, and role of innovation in the nuclear sector. Each of these topics will be addressed by a working group.
These two NEA initiatives held their governing body meetings back-to-back in February 2022 to foster better co-operation .
The NEST Management Board held its fifth meeting on 15-16 February 2022. During this meeting, it was recognised that while the pandemic has put on hold the NEST Fellows’ visit to partner organisations, NEST was still able to engage with the nuclear community through online dissemination and outreach activities, as well as by continuing providing education and trainings to the NEST Fellows. Two of those initiatives held during the Summer 2021 were a two month-long training session organised under the aegis of the NEST SMR project, the SMR Prize Competition and a series of seminars organised by the NEST ARTERD project. The NEST HYMERES project restarted its Fellowships in September 2021, with a third Fellow starting its Fellowship in March 2022.
All other NEST projects will again welcome Fellows from Spring 2022. During the meeting, the adhesion of Romania was accepted by the Management Board and thus increasing to eleven the number of countries participating in NEST.
Andreas Pautz, Chair of the NEST Management Board, remarked "the impressive progress made despite the pandemic, which underlined the dedication put by the countries, organisations and individuals into this endeavour. With the improving sanitary situation, the remaining limitations will lessen soon and allow the NEST projects to take off." He further added "to be delighted to see NEST growing by welcoming Romania in the NEST Framework and thus support the training of a new generation of specialists for the implementation for strategic projects."
William D. Magwood, IV, NEA Director-General underlined that “…the timing is favourable to NEST’s development. In the aftermath of the COP26 meetings in Glasgow, many policymakers came to realise that nuclear energy will play a crucial role in addressing the climate challenge. Since Glasgow, many countries have been rethinking nuclear energy.”
The Global Forum held its third Council of Advisors meeting back-to-back with the NEST Management Board on 17 February 2022. Working groups shared the progress made and activities to be planned in 2022, with the creation of task forces or sub-groups in charge of single activities.
Richard K. Lester, Chair of the Global Forum Council of Advisors, welcomed the progress made, stating that “through the involvement of its working groups, the Global Forum is offering new perspectives with practical implications, generated by new research which draws on work within the nuclear field but also beyond. The insights from the Forum’s work will reach practitioners and policy makers in the nuclear field directly as a result of the connections to NEA member countries.”
Director-General Magwood also congratulated the working groups for their efforts, stating how crucial the Global Forum is in “providing valuable input to many aspects of the work of the NEA”.
The NEST and Global Forum will provide further opportunities for cross-collaboration across all NEA divisions and thus will strengthen the importance of the education aspect in the NEA portfolio.
Director-General Magwood concluded by saying how he was “delighted to see NEA member countries supporting these education activities. There is nothing more important than investing in young people to become the future experts, in science and technology, particularly in the nuclear field."
Global Forum Council of Advisors meeting on 17 February 2022