UN atomic agency seeks to tackle shortage in new generation of nuclear

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Conference on Nuclear Knowledge Management in Saclay, France, is meeting against a backdrop of recent trends that include falling student enrolment, the risk of losing nuclear knowledge accumulated in the past, and the need to build capacity and share knowledge. The nuclear workforce is ageing with more and more workers approaching retirement age without a corresponding influx of appropriately qualified younger personnel to replace them, the Agency noted. Fewer young people are studying nuclear science, nuclear engineering and related fields at the university level, and a growing number of universities are giving up their nuclear education programmes altogether. In recognition of these and related trends, a number of IAEA advisory committees, as well as the IAEA Board of Governors and General Conference, have called for measures to better identify the nature and scope of the problem, to understand what countries are doing to address it, and to determine what co-operative international actions might be appropriate. In 2002 the IAEA decided to systematically address the preservation and promotion of knowledge in the field of nuclear science and technology. “Whether or not nuclear power witnesses an expansion in the coming decades, it is essential that we preserve nuclear scientific and technical competence for the safe operation of existing facilities and applications,” IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the agency’s 47th General Conference last year.

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