Helping position Europe at forefront of nuclear energy sector: Birmingham hosts decommissioning seminar

The University of Birmingham and the European Joint Research Centre (JRC) hosted a one-off international seminar last week on “Education and Training in Nuclear Decommissioning”. 

The growing decommissioning market creates a potential for new activities, with highly skilled jobs in an innovative field. The clear global positioning of the European Union will stimulate the export of know-how to other countries, especially those having a large nuclear programme, and the ability to promote the highest levels of safety.

The aim of this important event was to:

  • Identify the real needs in education and training (in terms of industry, organisations, regulatory bodies and policy-makers);
  • Disseminate information on existing education and training opportunities in nuclear decommissioning and on the related experiences;
  • Assess on how education, training and research in the field of nuclear decommissioning can be better promoted, in particular to young students.

 

decommissioning-seminar-april15Nuclear decommissioning envelopes all technical and management actions associated with ceasing operation of a nuclear installation and its subsequent dismantling to remove it from regulatory control. Nuclear decommissioning is already an industrial reality, and significant growth of the market can still be expected. Out of more than 560 nuclear power plants that have been built worldwide, 130 reactors are permanently shut down. Today, only about 10% of all shut down plants have been fully decommissioned, the rest being at different stages of "safely enclosed", "dismantling" and "decommissioning". 

The seminar brought together leading experts from research and industry to address the need for focussed and flexible education and training and how to ensure strong recruitment and retention of qualified personnel in the nuclear sector. Keynote speakers included: Jean-Paul Glatz, Director, European Commission - Joint Research Centre; Rebecca Pleasant, Head of Skills and Talent, Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, UK; Georges Van Goethem,  Directorate General Research and Innovation, European Commission; and Professor John Perkins CBE FREng, former Chief Scientific Advisor to BIS.

Nuclear decommissioning is an industrial activity that is growing worldwide creating many opportunities for high-skilled workers. Over the last decades, European companies have been involved in decommissioning projects that are targeted to deliver an environmentally friendly end-product such as a fully restored green field following the shutdown of a nuclear installation.

Professor Martin Freer, Director of the Birmingham Energy Institute and Head of Nuclear Physics said:

Nuclear waste management and decommissioning is a really important part of environmental reconditioning that is required following the shut down of nuclear power plants or facilities. The need for highly qualified graduates with a breadth of skills is absolutely clear, as is the need for the co-ordination of training activities across the EU.

The European Union has acquired know-how in the decommissioning field and today Europe can position itself at the top level in the world market. However, in view of the expected expansion of the activities, we must ensure we can maintain this leading position and in particular to develop the related knowledge, skills and competences.  This meeting has hopefully provided some momentum and direction.

The outcome of the different sessions of the seminar and the final conclusions of the seminar will be published in a joint report by the University of Birmingham and the Joint Research Centre. The report will give orientations on the way forward to support Education and Training in Nuclear Decommissioning in the EU.


Notes

Seminar Participants included: University of Birmingham; European Comission; EC-JRC; Nuclear Decommissioning Authority; RWMD; AREVA; National Physical Laboratory; IAEA; Cavendish Nuclear; National Skills Academy Nuclear; NNL; NUVIA; CEA-INSTN; SCK.CEN; Gen2; Karlsruhe Institute for Technology, Slovak University of Technology; Amec Foster Wheeler; Young Generation Nuclear; Ansaldo-NES; European Economic and Social Committee; ENS; European Nuclear Education Network; and University of Manchester.

Working in close cooperation with policy Directorates-General, the JRC addresses key societal challenges while stimulating innovation through developing new methods, tools and standards, and sharing its know-how with the Member States, the scientific community and international partners. The JRC research activities are spread over seven institutes (located in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain) and employ about 3000 staff members from all EU member states. For over two decades the JRC has been involved in the decommissioning of its own old and shutdown nuclear installations which were originally built following the signature of the Euratom Treaty in 1957. In this sense, the JRC has acquired a large and practical experience in decommissioning as well as in the management of the radioactive waste.

The University of Birmingham has a long tradition of working with the UK nuclear industry. Within the Birmingham Centre for Nuclear Education and Research, the Physics and Technology of Nuclear Reactors Masters course has been running since 1956 and a postgraduate programme in Nuclear 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 into the UK nuclear sector per year.

The University published the conclusions of a policy commission in 2012 on “The Future of Nuclear Energy in the UK”, which included highlighting skills and training gap in the nuclear sector.