Word from the President

Opportunity and responsibility – a double-edged sword

Back in September I was fortunate and privileged to have had the chance to address a large number of young nuclear professionals at the International Youth Nuclear Congress (IYNC 2008), in Interlaken, Switzerland. The focus of my talk was the challenges that face talented and visionary young nuclear professionals today and how the resurgent nuclear sector has presented them with a golden opportunity to harness that talent and turn that vision into reality. The main message, which I would like to share with you, concerns the inseparable twin concepts of opportunity and responsibility.

But first allow me to briefly focus on my audience at the IYNC – today’s young nuclear professionals. Their future, and that of those who will follow them, is a subject close to my heart.  One of my roles in the UK, for example, is to Chair the National Skills Academy for Nuclear.  ENS NEWS has often reported on the crucial subject of recruiting and retaining the talented and ambitious nuclear professionals of today and tomorrow. IYNC 2008 gave me a platform to express my views.

The young nuclear professionals that attended the Congress, and many thousands of their colleagues around the world, represent the future of the nuclear industry. Aided and abetted by experienced old-timers like many of us, they will set the tone and agenda. Without a constant regeneration of the nuclear talent pool the continued expansion of the nuclear sector and the consolidation of the current global revival will be put in jeopardy. We are all keen to ensure that future generations of nuclear professionals are given the best possible chance to express themselves; to translate their talent and ambition into a fulfilling career; to propel the nuclear industry towards a new era of prosperity and achievement. What most people want from their job is an opportunity to show what they can do and make a genuine and meaningful contribution. That opportunity is staring us in the face today.

IYNC 2008
(Left to right) Kneeling: Sebastian Klengel, Edouard Hourcade; First row: Miguel Sanchez Lopez, Igor Vuković, Susanna Dölen Wegrell, Sini Gahmberg, Gerardo Del Caz Esteso, Ondra Zlámal, Tommi Henttonen, Thomas Bischel; Second row: Andrei Goicea, Ekaterina Ryabikovskaya, Miguel Milan, Wim Uyttenhove, Paul Wouters

Ah yes, there’s that word opportunity again. A quick trip to the Oxford English Dictionary reveals, significantly, that the word opportunity has two meanings: 1) a career opening and 2) a favourable time or set of circumstances for doing something. Recognising and seizing a career opening is one thing, but it strikes me that failing to make the most of a favourable set of circumstances and failing to translate opportunity into achievement is quite a different proposition; one that has a powerful resonance today.

And so, back to my main message: opportunity is a double-edged sword. It has an alter ego – called responsibility. The nuclear sector is currently experiencing a global revival. It is driving the political debate rather than being relegated to its periphery. More and more countries, motivated by a new spirit of pragmatism fuelled by security of supply and climate change imperatives, are expanding their nuclear operations. Others are revisiting the nuclear option or pursuing it for the first time. Public perception of nuclear energy is evolving favourably and for the first time in a generation young people can see a career in the nuclear sector as a credible, challenging and well paid option. The nuclear revival has, therefore, given us all a tremendous opportunity. Those favourable conditions that the OED refers to are in place. But it has also brought responsibility into sharper focus. The message is clear - we all have a responsibility to make the most of the current nuclear revival; to make our voice heard at a time when people are more prepared to listen than ever before; to promote the excellence of nuclear science and technology with all our wit and energy; to show the wider public that solutions for the safe and efficient long-term storage of radioactive waste are a reality; to persuade young people to join our industry at this most crucial of times. It’s a matter of seizing the moment. Simply having that opportunity is no guarantee of success, though. Remember, there is no opportunity without responsibility. In our case, for example, the responsibility to have safety in the forefront of everything we do; to be open, transparent and accountable for our actions; to be committed to our professionalism as scientists and engineers; to play our full part in society. Every generation is judged on results. No-one wants to be remembered for wasting a golden opportunity. The onus to succeed is great. There might not be another such opportunity for a long time.

What is absolutely crucial now, therefore, is that we learn from the lessons of the past and build strong and lasting networks – like the Young Generation Network – and strengthen international co-operation at all levels. And we all must do everything in our power to keep that nuclear talent pool well-stocked up. I don’t have to convince you of that. I know that many of you are doing precisely this every day. If we – the young and the not so young - can square the opportunity and responsibility equation successfully then we will establish a blueprint for future generations to follow. Failure is not an option. But I am confident that with the enthusiasm and dynamism of youth at the forefront, supported by the experience of the not so young, we will succeed.

David Bonser


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