By Robert Corrigan
In April, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) hosted the annual ANS Student Conference in Richmond, VA. At its core, the student conference is exactly what it sounds like, a conference for students. The conference has everything that one would find at the winter and annual meetings, including technical sessions, panels, poster sessions, and industry partners. This conference, however, is organized and attended primarily by students and is hosted at the heart of a college campus.
ANS Student Conference is of vital importance to Society. In 2004, the IAEA published a report titled The nuclear power industry’s ageing workforce: Transfer of knowledge to the next generation. The report focuses on informing nuclear power plant operators about how to facilitate knowledge transfer, and mention is made of an OECD/NEA report on the status of nuclear education and training. This report, published in 2000, describes the following issues in nuclear education and training:
The decreasing number and the dilution of nuclear programs.
The decreasing number of students taking nuclear subjects.
The lack of young faculty members to replace ageing and retiring faculty members.
Aging research facilities which are being closed and not replaced.
The significant fraction of nuclear graduates not entering the nuclear industry.
Several things have changed in the nuclear industry since the publishing of that report. Enrollment in nuclear engineering programs grew steadily, then dropped after Fukushima, and is just now starting to recover (ORISE). Several nuclear engineering programs lapsed on their ABET accreditation, reducing the number of schools with programs in the U.S. to 23, and all the while, the nuclear industry’s workforce has continued to age.
In 2011, Prachi Patel wrote a great article for IEEE’s Spectrum, The Aging Nuclear Workforce. In it, he describes the aging workforce in the nuclear industry, and points out the sheer number of positions that will become available to graduates from nuclear engineering