Since 1990, the EU has been building up its nuclear knowledge base. Several incidents turned public opinion against nuclear power, leading to a gradual phasing out of nuclear energy in several EU Member States. Younger generations' interest in nuclear studies decreased dramatically and nuclear education was abandoned by many engineering faculties. In the meantime, the first generation of senior nuclear experts started to retire, with a resulting gap between incoming and outgoing flows of experts. This led gradually to a shortage of qualified professionals and an increased risk of loss of valuable knowledge for the nuclear community.
However, factors such as security of supply and climate change issues have contributed to a nuclear power renaissance. In order to avoid loss of related EU expertise and knowledge, action should be taken to preserve and disseminate the acquired knowledge to the new generation of engineers, scientists and other interested parties.
For nuclear knowledge management, training and education, the JRC set up CAPTURE, a project that seeks to evaluate human resources trends in the sustainable energy sector, harmonise nuclear skills and competences with EU-wide recognition, and contribute to nuclear education, training and knowledge management (including preservation and dissemination).
The importance of this project is linked to the fact that nuclear energy generation will continue to provide an important contribution to the security and competitiveness of energy supply in the EU, and to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, in line with the Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET Plan) targets.
The JRC has been tasked to monitor the supply and demand of human resources in the nuclear energy sector. It carries out nuclear training and education, and plays an important role in nuclear knowledge management.
Monitoring human resources in the nuclear energy sector
The JRC manages the European Human Resources Observatory in the Nuclear Energy Sector (EHRO-N) in order to act as a point of reference for the sustainable energy sector.
Nuclear training and education
To maintain the high level of nuclear safety in the EU, high quality nuclear education and training is essential. This is not only the task of academic institutions in the EU member states but also of research laboratories that have the competence and facilities in specialised domains. In light of this, the JRC is strongly contributing to the European education and training efforts in various fields.
The European Nuclear Safety and Security School (ENS3) is the JRC's answer to the diminishing opportunities for students and young professionals to gain expertise in practically working with nuclear materials. This is related to the fact that the facilities to handle nuclear materials are traditionally located in national and international research institutions, where a high level of safety and security must be guaranteed, which is not the same in academic institutions. The key goal of ENS3 is therefore to create better access to the JRC's nuclear research facilities, while facilitating the E&T programmes of Member States and pan-European organizations. In collaboration with leading European universities and educational institutions, the JRC thus actively contributes to consolidating and improving educational tracks, by providing its knowledge and expertise in fields of nuclear security and safety, nuclear materials, nuclear data, and actinide science.
The activities of the ENS3 are organized in four pillars.
- The higher education pillar concerns academic education. It comprises the contribution of JRC staff to academic courses, and special educational activities for students (summer schools and intersemester courses).Its key component is the grantholder and trainee programme through which students are hosted in the JRC nuclear facilities for periods varying from several months up to three years to acquire hands-on experience with nuclear materials.
- The vocational training pillar focuses on the training of young professionals in the nuclear sector, many of whom have no specific expertise in the nuclear domain when initially hired. This pillar is being developed with partners from the European GENTLE project (FP7 Fission Training Scheme) and with other educational institutions in Europe.
- The user access programme is the third pillar, which offers short-duration research opportunities (up to several weeks). Applicants can perform dedicated experiments on nuclear materials, or materials relevant to nuclear technology, that cannot be performed in the laboratories of the applicants..
- The information centre pillar is aimed at providing independent information about nuclear science and technology to the general public.
The JRC's Education and Training programme is developed with leading academic institutions in Europe, but also with other national and international organisations such as Bureau national de normalisation d’équipements nucléaires (BNEN), European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN), European Safeguards Research and Development Association (ESARDA), Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) or International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Nuclear knowledge management tools
The JRC preserves and maintains JRC related nuclear safety knowledge, contributes to nuclear public opinion activities led by the Commission’s Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, creates modern nuclear training initiatives, collaborates with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on nuclear safety knowledge management issues, as well as with the European Nuclear Education Network (ENEN) and national universities, etc. for which the JRC develops training and education material, specific to its scientific expertise.
The JRC operates and manages several websites that incorporate online tools in support of data and knowledge management in the domain of nuclear technology and safety.
The Online Data and Information Network (ODIN) is a portal for preserving scientific data and documentation. It provides access to online database applications for preserving and exchanging scientific data and documentation in the domain of energy research. For nuclear technology, there are databases for engineering alloys, nuclear fuels, and graphite, together with accompanying documentation.
The CAPTURE website manages and maintains state‑of‑the‑art reports, which are available or progressively consolidated in specific workshops through a dedicated method developed at the JRC for consolidation of knowledge.
Scientists in front of large computer screens