Bringing academia into global nuclear policy dialogues

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Academic institutions across NEA member countries are not only nurturing the next generation of nuclear experts and creating the talent pipeline necessary for the sustainability of the nuclear sector, but also providing solutions to complex and emerging issues and challenges which affect the nuclear energy sector through their research and expertise. However, over the years the NEA has had little direct engagement with academic institutions that are responsible for developing the next generation of nuclear science and technology experts. Furthermore, these academic institutions lack a global platform to exchange experiences and co-operate towards common goals.

To address these gaps, the NEA has established the NEA Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy, which entered into force on 28 January 2021.

A Global Forum is a framework within the OECD for policy dialogues with broader communities of stakeholders that are not necessarily member country governmental bodies. Currently 15 Global Fora exist under the OECD framework and the Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy is the first to be launched by the NEA.

The NEA Global Forum on Nuclear Education, Science, Technology and Policy will provide a platform for sustained co-operation amongst academic institutions, policymakers and key stakeholders in the nuclear energy sector and civil society. It will be steered by an advisory group of approximately 20 academic representatives who will help develop its proposed activities, conduct studies and analyses pursuant to the Global Forum’s identified goals.

The Global Forum will aim to identify good practices, facilitate shared activities and co-ordinate joint programmes of investigation to advance nuclear science and technology education and policy in member countries of the NEA. It will also conduct periodic symposia to serve as venues for experts from academic institutions and representatives of NEA member countries, as well as other stakeholders worldwide, to exchange good practices and identify emerging issues and creative solutions to some of the most significant challenges the nuclear energy sector faces today.

The work of the NEA will benefit significantly from increased engagement with academic institutions via the Global Forum. “Academic institutions play an important role in generating novel solutions to challenging issues confronting the nuclear sector, particularly with regard to the development of human capital,” said NEA Director-General William D. Magwood, IV. “By bringing long-term, creative thinking to address international policy challenges, the Global Forum will greatly leverage the impact of ongoing NEA initiatives related to innovation, human capital development, and engagement with stakeholders.”

Professor Richard K. Lester, Global Forum Advisory Group Chair and Associate Provost at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), noted that universities from NEA member countries will also benefit from having a platform for interaction, co-operation, and collective action. “This group has been convened at a time when there is growing recognition in many countries that nuclear energy will almost certainly need to play a much larger role in future low-carbon energy systems, but also that new capabilities, new pathways, and new ideas will be needed if we are going to overcome the challenges that are limiting the impact of nuclear today,” Lester added. “An important role of the Global Forum is thus to bring to the fore the perspectives of the world’s leading nuclear academic institutions on these issues in international policy discussions.”

In addition to the Global Forum, the NEA is currently working on a variety of initiatives to support its membership in their education, skills and capacity building efforts. These include the Nuclear Education, Skills and Technology (NEST) Framework and International Mentoring Workshops.

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