The decommissioning of nuclear facilities is growing worldwide, creating job opportunities at all educational levels. Nuclear decommissioning is the industrial process of dismantling and decontaminating nuclear facilities and site remediation, removing them from regulatory control.
European industry has acquired knowledge and today, Europe can position itself as the top level in the world decommissioning market. Over the last decade, European companies have been involved in decommissioning projects that are targeted at delivering environmentally friendly end-products such as fully restored green field sites.
There are growing expectations of the decommissioning market and there is potential for new activities over the coming decades. In view of the expected expansion of activities, efforts are necessary to maintain this leading position and, in particular, to ensure and share the underpinning knowledge, skills and competences. There is a need for qualified and experienced personnel, but the European nuclear sector is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit and maintain staff with the required expertise.
A collaborative report on ‘Education and Training in Nuclear Decommissioning’ (pdf 3 MB) by the University of Birmingham and co-authored by the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre [JRC] explains the context in which nuclear decommissioning is progressing in the European Union and provides suggestions on the way forward to support education and training.
The report, which was the result of a joint seminar hosted by the University of Birmingham and the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre, addresses the following questions in relation to education and training in nuclear decommissioning:
- What are the competence needs for the future?
- What are the education and training opportunities?
- How can we stimulate interest and future talent?
The report provides suggestions for helping the development, coordination and promotion of adequate education and training programmes at EU level in nuclear decommissioning. It highlights, in particular, the necessity to improve the long term planning of the resources and competences, addressing the specifics of decommissioning activities to give more visibility to the career possibilities in the sector. It will also enhance the cooperation between the existing education and training programmes, providing also more clarity in the learning outcomes.
Professor Martin Freer, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute and Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research at the University of Birmingham, said:
"Decommissioning of nuclear facilities is a complex area which requires skills from a cross section of disciplines from engineering, to chemistry and physics. To motivate young people to work in this sector is a challenge and in part needs a change of mind set that emphasises the environmental reconditioning that is achieved rather than the negative decommissioning. The present report explores the challenges and sets out the opportunity for collaborative work across the European Union - Birmingham was delighted to help shape this agenda."
- The University of Birmingham’s Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors Masters course has been running since 1956 and a postgraduate programme in Radioactive Waste Management and Decommissioning is well established to cater for the growing demand in this sector.
- The University has the largest UK set of nuclear training programmes, delivering close to 100 graduates in the UK nuclear sector per year.
- The report was published by the European Commissions Joint Research Centre
- The University published the conclusions of the policy commission in 2012 on ‘The Future of Nuclear Energy in the UK' (pdf 12.5 MB) which included highlighting skills and training gaps in the nuclear sector.