Concerns about tomorrow's nuclear workforce are focusing attention on nuclear education, research, and training -- and on ways to attract top prospects to nuclear-related careers. No "quick fix" is foreseen to troubling trends, as governments step up efforts to attract -- and retain -- the next generation of scientists, engineers, and specialists in fields of nuclear science and technology. High among the reason behind this are an emerging shortfall of specialized expertise, worrying trends in nuclear education at universities and institutes, and public perceptions of a "stagnant" industry with poor career prospects.
Several studies in recent years, and results of international conferences, have served to focus greater attention on the "people" side of nuclear's future.
A number of common threads bind the studies and symposia reviews. In the forefront for most countries surveyed is the need to recruit, attract, and retain the young generation, namely students, junior professionals, and teachers. Key objectives include revitalizing nuclear science and engineering education programmes, and renewing proactive industry outreach and recruitment campaigns.
The outlook is brighter in France, which relies upon nuclear power for over 75% of its electricity and sees no immediate concern over a shortage of young nuclear graduates. As reported by the NEA, the age breakdown of atomic engineering graduates recruited by the French atomic energy commission shows a relatively young population "capable of keeping its expertise alive for years to come".
Another common thread is the need to address public perceptions that tend to cast nuclear fields in poor light, and influence academic and career choices. In Belgium, among other countries, the NEA study reported that the number of students in nuclear engineering progressively decreased as nuclear power expansion slowed and nuclear's public image fell.
In the USA, a prime objective of education strategies is to restore public confidence and nuclear's image: "The redevelopment of a positive outlook for nuclear energy in the United States will encourage the recruitment and education of a new generation of students to meet the (human resource) needs of the next several decades," the NEA study reported.
To a large extent, perceptions may be tied to wrong impressions, signalling the need for greater investment in public communications programmes. The image of a "stagnant" technology, for example, often goes against the grain.
"Nuclear technology has been applied and is still progressing in a wide area: generation of electric and thermal power, medical diagnosis and therapy, agriculture, non-destructive testing, among other things," the NEA study states. "Nuclear education competence is important...for sensitizing a wider audience to nuclear-energy related issues." The issue crosses pro- and anti-nuclear lines.
"Whether one supports, opposes, or is neutral about nuclear energy, it is evident that there are important current and long-term future nuclear issues that require significant expertise," the NEA study noted. The issues include safe and economic operation of nuclear power and research facilities, some of which will significantly extend their planned lifetimes; decommissioning plants;
environmental protection; waste management; and radiation protection. These needs call for a steady supply of high-quality students and vigorous research.
A third common element is the need for greater collaboration between government, industry, and academic communities at national levels, between developing and industrialized countries, and between international, regional, and non-governmental bodies globally. Through such channels, good national practices, promising initiatives, and "hands-on" internship and fellowship opportunities can be shared and more widely put into practice.
When its study was done, the NEA set up an international task force on nuclear education and training. The IAEA has participated in this forum as part of its work to review and improve its educational and training programmes. Other Agency activities include projects directed at the "preservation of nuclear knowledge".
The range of IAEA-supported education and training opportunities is diverse and closely linked with technical and research programmes serving specific national development goals of the Agency’s Member States.
No one yet sees a "crisis point" in nuclear education, and countries are targeting actions on the most pressing concerns. But lead times are long for specialized training and undergraduate and advanced studies, and the goal is to prevent potential repercussions down the line. In the USA, for example, legislation was introduced to bolster government funding for nuclear education and research, and industries are recruiting more actively.
Educational doors and incentives may be opening at the right time. US analysts say that demand exceeds supply in the nuclear job market for the best and brightest minds.
Nuclear Education Curriculum
Mankind is having an increased effect on the environment through greenhouse gas emission; a very important and growing concern. Generally nuclear power is seen as a method for reducing greenhouse gas emission while still satisfying our modern society's high demand for energy. We are developing a well rounded research and education program in response to a variety of world-wide nuclear utilization subjects such as: protection of the global environment, supplying safe and stable nuclear energy, and applying radiation for healthy, productive and prosperous lives. The first systematic education on nuclear energy in the world is performed, incorporating the social, liberal arts and technical subjects as they relate to nuclear utilization.
For nuclear energy sociology, we take up three major research subjects; nuclear law and regulation, nuclear non-proliferation and the harmonization of society and nuclear technology. These fields are explored in practical study and in collaboration with people outside universities.
For nuclear energy, research project takes up three key subjects: future nuclear energy systems, radioactive waste and system maintenance engineering to obtain safe and stable nuclear power plant operation.
The research and development of radiation application is spread comprehensively in interdisciplinary fields such as medicine, biology, etc. Human resources in frontier radiation application are cultivated with the development of medical physics.
Through these studies, preparation the next generation of researchers to grasp the perspectives of these three complicated and sometimes divergent fields of nuclear energy. They will be able to understand the essential disciplines of nuclear energy, radiation application and nuclear sociology.
Some critical points that need to be addressed in Nuclear Education are:
Nuclear education in public health and nursing
Twenty-three public health schools and 492 university schools of nursing were surveyed to gather specific information on educational programs related to nuclear war. Twenty public health schools and 240 nursing schools responded. Nuclear war-related content was most likely to appear in disaster nursing and in environmental health courses. Three schools of public health report that they currently offer elective courses on nuclear war. Innovative curricula included political action projects for nuclear war prevention.
The European Organization for Nuclear Research (French: Organisation européenne pour la recherché nucléaire), commonly known as CERN, is the world's largest particle physics laboratory, situated just northwest of Geneva on the border between France and Switzerland. The convention establishing CERN was signed on 29 September 1954. From the original 12 signatories of the CERN convention, membership has grown to the present 20 member states. Its main function is to provide the particle accelerators and other infrastructure needed for high-energy physics research. Numerous experiments have been constructed at CERN by International collaborations to make use of them.
The main site at Meyrin also has a large computer centre containing very powerful data processing facilities primarily for experimental data analysis, and because of the need to make them available to researchers elsewhere, has historically been (and continues to be) a major wide area networking hub.
CERN currently has approximately 2600 full-time employees. Some 7931 scientists and engineers (representing 500 universities and 80 nationalities), about half of the world's particle physics community, work on experiments conducted at CERN.
As an international facility, the CERN sites are not officially under Swiss or French jurisdiction, and some company vehicles have diplomatic number plates. This includes the organization's fleet of fire trucks.
The acronym CERN originally stood, in French, for Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire. The acronym was retained for the new laboratory after the provisional council was dissolved, even though the name changed to the current Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Organization for Nuclear Research).
The instruments used at CERN are particle accelerators and detectors. Accelerators boost beams of particles to high energies before they are made to collide with each other or with stationary targets. Detectors observe and record the results of these collisions.
Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, invented the World Wide Web in 1990. The Web, as it is affectionately called, was originally conceived and developed to meet the demand for automatic information sharing between scientists working in different universities and institutes all over the world.
CERN is not an isolated laboratory, but rather a focus for an extensive community that now includes about 60 countries and about 8000 scientists. Although these scientists typically spend some time on the CERN site, they usually work at universities and national laboratories in their home countries. Good contact is clearly essential.
The basic idea of WWW was to merge the technologies of personal computers, computer networking and hypertext into a powerful and easy to use global information system. Nuclear Education
The Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a gigantic scientific instrument near Geneva, where it spans the border between Switzerland and France about 100 m underground. It is a particle accelerator used by physicists to study the smallest known particles – the fundamental building blocks of all things. It will revolutionise our understanding, from the miniscule world deep within atoms to the vastness of the Universe.
Two beams of subatomic particles called 'hadrons' – either protons or lead ions – will travel in opposite directions inside the circular accelerator, gaining energy with every lap. Physicists will use the LHC to recreate the conditions just after the Big Bang, by colliding the two beams head-on at very high energy. Teams of physicists from around the world will analyse the particles created in the collisions using special detectors in a number of experiments dedicated to the LHC.
There are many theories as to what will result from these collisions, but what's for sure is that a brave new world of physics will emerge from the new accelerator, as knowledge in particle physics goes on to describe the workings of the Universe. For decades, the Standard Model of particle physics has served physicists well as a means of understanding the fundamental laws of Nature, but it does not tell the whole story. Only experimental data using the higher energies reached by the LHC can push knowledge forward, challenging those who seek confirmation of established knowledge, and those who dare to dream beyond the paradigm.