Youth & Young scientists
Europe's nuclear education and training strategy
Nuclear education and training issues are taken seriously by EU institutions. In December 2008, the Council of the EU called for the public and private sectors to take urgent action to 'reinforce the teaching of basic scientific prerequisites in preparation for energy-related occupations'. The Council also insisted that 'the appropriate conditions must be created for the mutual recognition of nuclear professional qualifications throughout the EU'. While recognising that the Member States have already put in place measures to ensure a high level of nuclear safety, the Council adopted a directive in June 2009 stressing the importance of education and training in maintaining nuclear safety standards. Specifically, they called on Member States to ensure that their national programmes have requirements for the education and training of all staff with responsibilities relating to nuclear installations. The directive represents a significant step forward in promoting a strong safety culture in Europe.
The supply of qualified personnel is a concern also shared by international agencies such as the Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), as well as by all countries collaborating with Euratom, including Canada, China, Japan, Russia, South Korea, South Africa and the US, among others.
Within the Euratom FP, the aim is to harmonise European nuclear education and training schemes and to offer an appropriate balance of creative research opportunities and practical training in the priority areas of an ever-evolving sector. While students are clearly needed in the rapidly growing area of research on advanced and innovative nuclear reactor designs (Generation-IV), there are also important opportunities and training needs in issues of immediate relevance in the nuclear power and medical sectors, such as radioactive waste management, nuclear safety including reactor lifetime extension, and radiation protection. This broad approach will help provide opportunities, including internationally, for young researchers across the nuclear field.
Since 2000, Euratom has worked to strengthen education and training in all sectors of nuclear fission and radiation protection. A major Euratom objective is to establish a single mutual-recognition system across the EU, using the European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS).
Another objective is to facilitate the mobility of teachers and students, in particular through support from public-private partnerships. Such mobility is essential for a healthy research community, as it allows for cross-pollination of ideas between both cultures and disciplines. Mobility is encouraged for scientists through grants and fellowships that help them move between universities and research institutes within and outside the EU.
Euratom also encourages university programmes to take advantage of feedback from stakeholders such as systems providers, utilities and technical safety organisations. By involving future employers in the education process, research institutes and universities can optimise the value of their programmes and better prepare their students for the challenges ahead.