Sustainable development of the humankind in the future will, among others, require access to sufficient, environmentally acceptable and affordable energy sources. Development of abundant and affordable low carbon energy sources might well represent one of the most important and complex challenges that humankind will have to adequately solve within a few decades. Nuclear fission (and fusion in the future) could provide a significant contribution to the global efforts to secure sufficient, environmentally acceptable and affordable energy.
The nuclear knowledge has been one of the major achievements of mankind. It made many significant contributions to sciences and technologies beyond nuclear power. Examples include diagnostics through imaging and variety of therapies in medicine, sterilization in food processing, and diagnostics in industry, forensics, archaeology and geology, among others.
The nuclear technologies today exhibit unparalleled levels of safety and reliability. This has been made possible through considerable and long term efforts of the excellently educated and trained employees with outstanding safety culture in the industry, competent regulatory authorities, research, higher education and technical support (TSO) communities worldwide.
Early warning signs have started to emerge in 90s in the various European countries underlining the possible shortage of human resources and requirements for replacement of qualified nuclear personnel. Retirement of ageing workers, lack of anticipation for preparing new generations of skilled workforce, negative public perception of nuclear and lack of interest of young people to enter nuclear careers have been recognized as major difficulties encountered in just about all nuclear disciplines. This situation may give rise to the loss of nuclear knowledge, which might have already contributed to the reduced competitiveness of EU nuclear industry and could, in the future, also contribute to reduced safety and security of nuclear activities and installations.
To overcome this situation several projects have been initiated and promoted by EURATOM regarding Education and Training in nuclear. These include, among others, ENEN, NEPTUNO, PETRUS, ENETRAP, TRASNUSAFE, CINCH, ANNETTE, and CORONA. Those projects have been launched notably in the frame of the EURATOM Fission Training Schemes (EFTS), which are built on the principles of common qualification criteria, common mutual recognition systems, and the facilitation of teacher, student and professionals mobility across the EU. To date, they have already resulted in a wide range of measures targeting the development of nuclear E&T programmes at universities, research institutes and industrial training providers.
The creation of the European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN) and gradual structuration of E&T in different nuclear sectors such as nuclear reactor engineering and safety, waste management and geological disposal, radiation protection, nuclear safety culture, nuclear chemistry, partitioning and transmutation etc. are all among the success stories of the EFTS. However, despite of remarkable results obtained since the launch of the EURATOM EFTS initiatives in early 2000s, it must be recognized that the enrolment of students to nuclear disciplines has not yet reached the desired level. A plausible explanation lies in the fact that rather than direct support to the recruitment most efforts have been directed towards creation, improvement and harmonization of E&T programmes, establishment of adequate schemes and frameworks for professional development, pooling of resources and means at European level, organizational restructuring and capacity building. These initiatives were indeed greatly needed as a premise to reach expected goals, e.g., for maintaining and transferring the expertise of nuclear professionals. It is now time to consider at its very roots the pipeline of nuclear workforce, tackling the problems discouraging young students to elect nuclear matters as their choice for a future career.
The lack of new talents electing nuclear careers is closely linked to an early loss of interest in nuclear sciences and insufficient information about the nuclear careers available to both secondary school pupils and university students entering the bachelor and master of science levels.
As clearly stated by the EURATOM call which is focusing on attractiveness for “new talent”, now is the time to leverage the progress already made through EURATOM EFTS by attracting more new talents and encourage them to pursue nuclear careers.
The ENEN+ proposes cost-effective actions to attract develop and retain new talents in the nuclear professions. This is seen as an essential part of the common strategic goal of all nuclear stakeholders, which is to preserve, maintain and further develop the valuable nuclear knowledge for todays and future generations.