“Present supply of nuclear experts in EU is insufficient to cover demand until 2020 and needs a boost,” says EHRO-N
On 30 May 2012, EHRO-N, the European Human Resource Observatory in the Nuclear Sector, produced its first report analysing whether or not the supply of experts for the nuclear industry in the EU will meet the required demand for the region by 2020.
The report’s analysis was based on data that was collected between spring 2010 and spring 2011 and didn’t, therefore, take into account the likely impact of the Fukushima-Daiichi accident. Nevertheless, the report in its current form still provides a source of relevant information for young people considering working in the nuclear industry, higher educational institutions or companies involved in the nuclear energy sector.
In the EU today there are around 80,000 nuclear experts, equivalent to around 80 nuclear experts per 1,000 MW(e) unit. It is estimated that nuclear experts represent around 16% of the total workforce in the nuclear energy sector. This is only the tip of the competence iceberg, which also includes the so-called “nuclearised” employees (representing the biggest percentage of the nuclear energy sector workforce, at around 74%) and the “nuclear-aware” employees (representing some 10% of the same workforce).
One alarming finding to emerge from the report was that nearly half of nuclear experts employed today in NPPs in the EU will need to be replaced by 2020.
So, how does the supply of nuclear experts respond to future?
The supply of nuclear engineering graduates and graduates having included a nuclear
energy-related subject in their studies (2,800 of these graduated in the EU in 2009) should cover up to 70% of the demand for nuclear experts in EU by 2020. The demand for such experts EU-wide will be, on average, 4,000 per year by 2020. This is the most optimistic scenario, based on the assumption that all eligible graduates will actually find employment in the nuclear sector.
Furthermore, non-nuclear engineers (around 3,200 per year by 2020), technicians (3,500 per year by 2020) and other graduates like lawyers, business graduates, project managers, etc. (2,500 per year by 2020) will also be in demand in the nuclear energy sector by 2020.
Demand for many of the aforementioned graduates, especially the non-nuclear engineers, will need to be met by so-called “STEM graduates”, i.e. graduates in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
And how is the gap between supply and demand for nuclear experts to be bridged?
In keeping with the principle that “information is power”, EHRO-N proposes that similar surveys be conducted on a regular basis at EU level in order to forecast trends and provide information to relevant stakeholders, who can then take action accordingly. For this to happen, the work of EHRO-N needs to be actively supported by national governments (e.g. by coordinating and organising the distribution of information nationwide), nuclear safety authorities, the nuclear industry and education and training (E&T) establishments. Furthermore, ways of supporting the mutual recognition of knowledge, skills and competences relevant to the nuclear energy sector should be considered too. The European Credit for Vocational Education and Training (ECVET) initiative should also be promoted. Last but not least, coordination between industry and universities should be strengthened.
The full EHRO-N report is available at: ehron.jrc.ec.europa.eu