Interview with Mr. Noël Camarcat, President of the European Nuclear Society (ENS)
(interviewed by Alix Morfoisse for the SFEN JG)
What was your background before becoming President of the European Nuclear Society?
NC: I started my career at the Atomic Energy Commission (CEA – the French Institute in charge of R&D in the field of nuclear and renewables), where I worked for over 20 years. The curious fact is that for a long time since the beginning of my career my work was not directly related to nuclear power plants. My doctoral thesis dealt with plasma physics and inertial confinement fusion. Then I worked on topics related to the nuclear fuel cycle, enrichment of fuel, spent fuel management, and as you may know, nuclear fuel and nuclear reactors are different fields. I also worked on the military applications of nuclear fusion and was Director of Weapons from 2000 to 2004.
Finally, in 2007 I started working in the power generation by nuclear reactors sector when I joined the French utility Electricité de France (EDF) as Special Advisor for Nuclear R&D and International Issues, which is still my current position. Among my various duties I am in charge of relations with Russia and also chair, in Brussels, various groups active in the field of European affairs. I am also a Professor of Nuclear Engineering at Mines ParisTech.
Could you present to us the ENS? What are its activities?
NC: The European Nuclear Society was created in 1975 as a result of a European initiative to bring together all the nuclear societies in Europe in order that they might share their experiences and discuss all things related to nuclear applications, be it fundamental research, medical applications or energy production. Today, 23 members make up the core of the society, as well as about 60 corporate members that participate in its activities, including EDF, Westinghouse, Paks NPP and GDF Suez.
The activities of ENS are quite similar to those of SFEN and other European national nuclear societies. Our goals are to promote nuclear energy and nuclear science and to spread scientific and technical knowledge about it beyond national borders thanks to events and conferences. We organise events across Europe on a regular basis, like the European Nuclear Conference, Top Fuel and PIME (Public Information Materials Exchange).
What are the challenges that an association faces when its vocation is to bring together countries with very different energy policies?
NC: I like to see ENS as a federation. We all have different views and expectations, but we try to find a compromise and work together. Every country has a different interest regarding nuclear applications. Among the 28 countries of the European Union half use nuclear as an energy source, while the other half doesn’t.
For instance, France - a strong nuclear-powered country - doesn’t have the same interest as a country like Austria, where the use of nuclear power for electricity production is prohibited by law. Nevertheless, Austria has its full place within ENS and the IAEA’s headquarters and laboratories are actually located in Vienna. In other words, every member country has something to bring in this organization. Our differences are a true challenge, but this fact also makes this kind of organization so interesting and fascinating.
What is the role of the ENS within the European ‘nuclear renaissance’ – especially with regards to the ongoing projects in the UK and Finland?
I would not use the word renaissance here since it was rather ‘overused’ between 2005 and 2010. Nuclear energy has always had a future in Europe and this is still the case today.
Our role in this context is to support, defend and explain new projects, for industry and R&D, as well as highlight the techniques and disciplines across the nuclear fields (energy, medicine, research, radiation protection, etc.).
There are at the moment big industrial projects going on in the UK, Poland and Finland, as you said. But we must not forget other challenges that need to be tackled: Germany for instance will have to manage the decommissioning of its plants and their associated spent fuel.
There is a “young generation” section within ENS called ENSYGN: what are its objectives and activities?
The ENS Young Generation Network (ENSYGN) was created to bring together young professionals from all around Europe and encourage them to share experiences and build together the next generation of the European Nuclear Society. The idea of this network is to enhance contacts and to help develop a common interest in nuclear and its applications. One interesting thing with this network is that it is possible for young generations to exchange today in a way that was not possible for the previous generations for several reasons: language, interests, difficulty traveling, etc.
What do you expect from the European Nuclear Young Generation Forum, which is organised by the SFEN Young Generation in 2015?
The European Nuclear Young Generation Forum (ENYGF) has always been a success – as was the case with ENYGF 2013, in Stockholm. In 2015, Paris will host the event and welcome students and young professionals from across Europe and beyond. As the United Nations Conference COP21 will take place in France in December 2015, the central theme chosen for the event is Nuclear Energy and the Environment.
The aim of the event is to give an opportunity to the nuclear young generation to learn about nuclear and its role in fighting climate change, and to build up a network with young professionals from different countries, backgrounds and companies.
It also provides a platform for enhancing international communications, comparing small and large nuclear countries, sharing technical advances and knowledge and learning from experience and best practices.
It also provides a good opportunity to consider the social and political aspects affecting the nuclear industry.
I encourage every student or young professional in Europe to come to Paris in June 2015 and take part in this major event.
Do you have a particular message for young professionals in the French and European nuclear industry?
My message is that nuclear has a future in Europe, because of its added value to the energy mix in terms of security of supply. The situation is not simple because we are a fragmented continent evenly split between 14 members with nuclear power plants and 14 members without. Some countries are leaving nuclear energy, while others, like Poland, say they want to launch nuclear programmes. There are as many good career opportunities in nuclear as there are in other generation sources within the energy mix.