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Education and training in the nuclear energy field

Nuclear energy is currently the subject of debate on the national and international stage, following the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in March 2011. It appears essential to have experienced staff who are able to use nuclear energy responsibly and to conduct nuclear waste management and the decommissioning of power plants. This Communication therefore proposes a number of training avenues designed to strengthen the competence of staff in this sector, and to ensure that no nuclear accidents such as that at Fukushima occur in future.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council of 16 September 2011 – 1st situation report on education and training in the nuclear energy field in the European Union [COM(2011) 563 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

This Communication reports on the current situation with regard to staff training in the nuclear sector. It proposes several avenues in order to ensure that the European Union (EU) has a sufficient number of well-trained staff to use nuclear energy responsibly.

Present situation in the nuclear sector as to human resources

In 2008, the European Commission launched and published a study entitled Nuclear Safety in a Situation of Fading Nuclear Experience with the aim of analysing the availability of nuclear safety staff. This study revealed a situation of concern for the period to 2020, which may be explained by the following facts:

  • the number of students and graduates with a strong background in nuclear sciences is insufficient;
  • the nuclear sector does not attract university graduates;
  • continuing education for nuclear sector staff is not ensured.

The study has demonstrated the need for:

  • a regular supply and demand analysis at EU level concerning the qualitative and quantitative needs for new staff;
  • continuous monitoring of the challenges identified.

Proposed initiatives

It appears necessary for the Commission to enhance university studies in nuclear sciences and techniques. The European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN) Association, created in 2003, has a role to play. Composed of 60 universities, it endeavours to ensure the free movement of nuclear knowledge.

The Commission also wishes to introduce incentives for graduates to take up jobs in the nuclear sector. In January 2010, the European Nuclear Energy Leadership Academy (ENELA) was established by the following European companies:

The purpose of the ENELA is to provide young science graduates, or managers with experience, with the skills and expertise they will need to become future leaders in the field of nuclear energy.

It is also vital to develop post-graduate and professional training, and to improve expertise and mobility. This Communication identifies three types of initiative aimed at achieving this target:

  • EU initiatives: the Commission wishes to create "European Skill Passports" to integrate the requirements of mobility and lifelong learning. In the nuclear sector as well, it is appropriate to use the European Credit system for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET), and the Euratom or ENEN training programmes. The Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (ICSN) can also help to increase the technical knowledge and capabilities of non-EU countries, as can the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNE-TP).
  • International initiatives: The ENEN is a member of the World Nuclear University (WNU), whose purpose is to enhance education and leadership in nuclear science and technology. In addition, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is highly active in disseminating information in the nuclear field. It supports the International School of Nuclear Law, established in 2001 by the OECD/NEA, which offers an intensive course in international nuclear law.
  • National initiatives: a number of Member States (including Belgium, Denmark, France and Romania) have established national nuclear education networks and post-graduate programmes.

Since 2009, the European Human Resource Observatory in the Nuclear Energy Sector (EHRO-N) has monitored the situation and provided human resources data.

Last updated: 02.12.2011

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