Word from the President
I recently had the pleasure of opening NESTet 2011, an international conference dedicated to the subject of nuclear education and training. This flagship ENS conference, which took place in Prague, emphasised how the Society has always placed great importance in the subject of education and training for the nuclear physicists, engineers and researchers of tomorrow. Indeed, ENS NEWS recently devoted an entire edition to this subject and, as those of you who know me will testify, this has always been a subject very close to my heart.
One topic that featured high on the NESTet 2011 agenda was the issue of knowledge transfer. As the older “nuclear generation” gradually reaches retirement age, the need to pass on its vast knowledge and experience to the next generation - the future standard bearers of our industry - is paramount. This priceless reservoir of knowledge must be preserved at all costs. Without it the nuclear resurgence would stall and the future prosperity of the nuclear community would be in jeopardy.
One event that sums up eloquently the importance of encouraging this symbiosis of the generations, of promoting education and training, is the attribution of the annual Jan Runermark Award. The award was created back in 1995. It commemorates the significant role that Jan Runermark, the initiator of the Swedish Young Generation Network and promoter of the ENS Young Generation movement, played in promoting nuclear education and training in Europe. Sadly, Jan, a former President-Elect of ENS, died in a car crash soon afterwards. But his memory lives on thanks to this prestigious award.
I was invited to say a few words before the award was presented - on the eve of the European Nuclear Young Generation Forum (ENYGF) that took place back-to-back with NESTet. I referred to the speech that the famous Sioux chief, Sitting Bull, delivered in 1867 to the “great white father” – the President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant. Concerned about the future of his tribe, Sitting Bull expressed his fear that there weren’t enough young buffalo bulls roaming the prairies to succeed the older bulls and that soon the herds might disappear altogether if something wasn’t done about it. Well, the analogy can be applied to the current dilemma facing our industry. But, as NESTet and ENYGF illustrated, something is being done about it.
The Jan Runermark Award is presented by the Young Generation Network in recognition of an individual’s outstanding contribution to the cause of nuclear education and training; to someone who has been a source of inspiration and motivation for young students to pursue a career in nuclear; to an experienced old bull that has dedicated his life to educating the young pretenders. This year the award went to Helmut Böck, the President of the Austrian Nuclear Society. Helmut graduated in technical physics from the University of Vienna back in 1966 and obtained his professorship in reactor safety from the same establishment in 1979.
He was Reactor Manager in charge of the TRIGA research reactor from 1967 to 2008. In a long and distinguished career Helmut worked as a consultant to the IAEA, advising the Agency on research reactor safety and technology, founded the Austrian Nuclear Safety (in 1980) and was instrumental in the setting up of the Young Generation Network in Austria. He has worked tirelessly to teach young students, to preserve and pass on that knowledge bank and to support countless Young Generation projects. To have achieved all this is worthy of receiving any award, but to have done so in a country where nuclear energy is taboo and officially banned, is remarkable. The Young Generation Network rightly paid tribute to him.
Helmut, and many others like him, plays a vital role in nurturing the present and promoting the future of nuclear energy. He is an example for us to follow. Sitting Bull would definitely have approved.