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Workforce development a top priority for global nuclear industry growth


July 10, 2012
By Anthony Capkun

July 10, 2012 – The rapidly growing nuclear industry in Asia needs a huge workforce to support its growth, and the importance of training programs cannot be understated, says a new report by energy experts at GlobalData.

The report explains all existing nuclear countries need highly qualified individuals to maintain existing facilities, but the growing ranks of emerging nuclear countries (e.g. China, India and Japan) demand a flood of new staff to ensure safe and efficient operations.

There is a significant gap in the number of nuclear engineers that are being produced and those that are retiring, which needs to be addressed to keep the world’s nuclear reactors running. Countries who wish to develop their nuclear strength desperately require training programs and educational courses to fulfil this need. Developed nuclear countries can easily develop training programs in collaboration with educational institutions, but emerging nuclear countries may need to seek out collaborations with more experienced counterparts to introduce effective nuclear educational programs.

“The problem of skills shortages is becoming a global phenomenon. There is growing consensus among several countries for the need to invest in educating a workforce that meets the requirements of the nuclear power sector. Developing the right skills base is a key priority for the industry,” said Jennifer Santos, GlobalData’s head consultant.

To meet its huge power demand and need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, China has planned to generate a huge portion of its future energy through nuclear power, and has plans to construct 57 commercial nuclear reactors. The current generation capability of China’s nuclear fleet is 103,193 GWh, which it plans to increase to 384,615 GWh by 2020. According to GlobalData, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has calculated that around 20,400 additional nuclear staff would be needed to support these enormous nuclear expansion plans.

India has also embraced nuclear power, and plans to construct 36 new reactors. According to IAEA estimates, there would be a need for 3700 nuclear engineers in India by 2017. In an effort to support the growing human resource needs of the nuclear industry, 25 schools specializing in nuclear energy are tipped for development, and the Indian Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has devised various educational programs to support its large-scale expansion plans.

Japan remains one of the world’s largest nuclear power producers, and plans to continue despite the Fukushima disaster. To support its energy ambitions, Japan established the Nuclear Energy Human Resource Development Council (NEHRDC) in 2007, with members from academic, industrial and governmental backgrounds analyzing the supply of qualified personnel to the Japanese nuclear industry, aiming to eliminate any problems caused by manpower shortage. The NEHRDC have concluded that of the 700-800 students who major every year in diverse nuclear educational courses, 500 find employment in various sectors in the industry.