Word from the President
The Young Generation Network: bridging the gap between past and present, securing the future
Among the many duties that I perform as President of ENS one of the most pleasurable is to work closely with the Young Generation Network on a number of interesting projects. Being surrounded by so much youthful dynamism and commitment is a constantly rejuvenating process. I am also regularly reminded of the crucial role that the Network plays in raising and discussing the contemporary issues that really count, in bridging the knowledge gap between the older and younger nuclear generations and in acting as a catalyst to motivate and support the emerging scientists who will help define the future direction and progress of ENS. In many ways the YGN functions like the perfect mayonnaise, a high-performance emulsifier that binds together the necessary ingredients, allows each to interact correctly and contributes to a perfect end product!
In May this year, I was fortunate to chair part of the 2009 European Nuclear Young Generation Forum (ENYGF09), in the beautiful Spanish city of Cordoba. And all the right ingredients were there to make a perfect conference – a varied and pertinent agenda, a host of highly-qualified guest speakers (including Luis Echavarri, Director General of the OECD/NEA and Alejo Vidral-Qadras, MEP and former Vice president of the European Parliament) plenty of open and dynamic debate, some key messages worthy of being communicated to a wider public and an inspiring setting and working environment. I will not go over the conference programme in too much detail as ENS NEWS N° 25 features an interesting report from one of our YGN “roving reporters” that does just that. Instead, I would like to briefly outline what were, for me, some of the outstanding messages to emerge from the conference. I will then highlight one or two individuals whose contribution to the work of the YGN, and ENS as a whole, is worthy of special praise.
Among the main issues that were rightly identified and discussed during the conference was the crucially important one of providing essential training and education. This is vital to ensuring that the acquired knowledge and legacy of previous generations, thanks to good communications and interaction, is passed on to the current and future generations of nuclear scientists. Knowledge is empowerment and this in turn will help prepare tomorrow’s nuclear leaders. Within this context the role of the YGN in facilitating knowledge transfer is crucial. With the nuclear sector experiencing such a rapid worldwide expansion at the moment, the onus upon quality education, training and effective communications is all the greater.
Another important issue discussed at length in Cordoba was that of nuclear safety and how it is a fundamental vector in securing and nurturing improved public acceptance. Indeed, the issue of safety and public acceptance was the focus of a whole afternoon session. It is of paramount importance to effectively communicate how current and future reactors are intrinsically safe and how existing radioactive waste management solutions are too. If these key messages are successfully communicated to the general public then it will accept nuclear energy even more readily. This fact is backed up by the results of successive public opinion polls that have shown that if safety and waste management were perceived as less of a problem then even more citizens would support nuclear energy. Clear and reliable communications that address the real concerns of the public are, therefore, the key. They can also help to dispel the myths about nuclear energy - and here again the YGN can and does play a telling role. In fact, the importance of using high-impact communications strategies to convey the facts about nuclear energy was a constantly recurring theme throughout the conference.
In addition to the lively conference debates there were also a number of more formal and administrative events during ENYGF09 at which I was delighted to officiate. There are a couple of people who have been closely associated with the YGN over the years who I would especially like to thank; their tireless support and stalwart contribution has been invaluable to the prosperity of the YGN and to the ENS family in general: first of all, Igor Vukovic’s term as President of the YGN has come to an end and I would like to thank him for the outstanding leadership he has shown in the role. His seemingly boundless energy and ability to work with people to get things to happen have helped the YGN to drive forward with even greater impact.
Secondly, in his role as Chairman of the Belgian Nuclear Society Marcel Maris’ has always been a great promoter of the aims and activities of the Belgian chapter of YGN – and of the YGN in general. That priceless support received the recognition it so richly deserved when he was awarded, during ENYGF09, the prestigious Jan Runemark Award for outstanding services to the YGN. I would like to offer once again my sincerest thanks and congratulations to Marcel. Long may our fruitful collaboration continue!
In many ways the YGN is the youthful heartbeat of the nuclear science community. To have the opportunity to work with them provides everyone, the young and the not-so-young, with an injection of energy and optimism for the future. And friendships made by membership of the YGN give access to a great, international network that will prove to be invaluable throughout a nuclear career. I am sure that you would agree with me that their contribution is a vital one to the Society and to the nuclear science community as a whole. I look forward to continuing to work with YGN in the future.
Wherever you are during the summer holidays, enjoy it and return rested and refreshed to meet the challenges that lie ahead.