IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi recognized the achievements of the International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN) on its 10th anniversary and encouraged the academic community to continue their efforts toward gender parity, in his video address to the INSEN Annual Meeting.
The 2020 Annual Meeting, usually held at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria drew members from over 40 Member States to their screens. This milestone meeting was held virtually in July 2020, due to COVID-19 travel restrictions.
“Nuclear [and other radioactive] material can be a magnet for groups with malicious intent, which see the possibility to create panic and to bring distress and pain to our societies,” Mr Grossi said in his video message. “I greatly value the role of INSEN as an educational network dedicated to strengthening nuclear security throughout the world.”
Established to help Member States implement good practices in nuclear security education, INSEN became one of the key mechanisms for mainstreaming nuclear security during the development of an emerging workforce. The network focuses on capacity building and providing resources for educators to deliver quality nuclear security education by developing and reviewing teaching materials and tools, facilitating faculty professional development programmes and exchanges, and promoting nuclear security education.
“Nuclear security is not an afterthought that graduates become concerned with only when they arrive at job sites,” said Akila Frahi-Amroun, INSEN vice-chair and professor at the University of Science and Technology Houari Boumediene in Algeria. “From the very beginning, we not only teach students how to safely handle the material to minimize risks of accidental exposure, but also how a threat of intentional exposure may lead to similarly disastrous consequences.”
INSEN’s work focuses on helping prevent nuclear and other radioactive materials from falling into the wrong hands. By empowering educators with resources and opportunities, INSEN weaves nuclear security concepts into the curricula and instils the importance of a nuclear security culture among the graduating nuclear scientists and engineers.
“Nuclear security education helped me to strengthen my nuclear security culture,” said Alina Melnyk, Technical Officer, Ukraine’s State Scientific and Technical Center for Nuclear and Radiation Safety and one of the first to graduate with a Master’s Degree in Physical Protection, Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials from the Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute, National Technical University of Ukraine. “It gave me a clear understanding of the importance of nuclear security within the organization and of the responsibility of every stakeholder, even the public.”
Over the past decade, INSEN has developed a comprehensive suite of resources that address every aspect of nuclear security and national nuclear security regimes. Based on the IAEA Nuclear Security Series and good pedagogical practices, the network has developed 24 packages of teaching material. The materials range from syllabi to readymade presentations and lecture notes, to table-top exercises, and include three complete textbooks. According to a recent survey, 80 percent of the members use INSEN materials in their classrooms. More than 160 instructors have participated in Faculty Professional Development courses to enhance their own capacity to teach nuclear security and inspire other educators to integrate nuclear security into their teaching practices. INSEN has also implemented programmes granting academic credentials ranging from certificates to Master degrees in nuclear security.
“The Master in Nuclear Security provided me with tools and knowledge directly applicable in my work as the Nuclear Security Coordinator at the Department of Coordination in the Brazilian Nuclear Programme Protection System,” said Cesar Henrique Romao, a graduate of the Master in Nuclear Security at Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences. “The online programme covers all aspects of nuclear security and approaches the subject in a matter that is complementary to safety and organizational management.”
Mr Grossi commended INSEN’s commitment to gender parity and ongoing efforts to increase representation of women in nuclear fields, including the annual panel discussion on Gender Initiative on Women in Nuclear Security. Noting his shared commitment to the gender parity, Mr Grossi highlighted the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship.
Launched on International Women’s Day, on the 8th of March, the Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellowship Programme is a new mechanism enabling as many as 100 female graduate students per year to study nuclear-related subjects. The fellowship provides scholarships to women pursuing a graduate degree in nuclear science and technology or non-proliferation studies.
“I encourage all members of INSEN, with your deep roots in the academic community throughout the world, to make possible women candidates aware of the exciting programme and to encourage them to apply,” Mr Grossi said, urging the network members to leverage this new mechanism to ensure that the best and the brightest minds, are equitably represented in the emerging workforce.
Testing for COVID-19, maintaining uninterrupted electricity flow to hospitals, and ensuring a sustained food supply through plant breeding – are just a few of the benefits we derive from nuclear science and technology. A competent- including in nuclear security- and representative workforce is essential for sustaining these and many other benefits we derive from peaceful uses.
Education is the first step toward a competent, highly specialized, and representative workforce. It is also the first opportunity to mainstream values of nuclear security and safety culture and promote gender parity. Over the past decade, INSEN’s concerted efforts in both areas spanned 194 institutions across 65 States. Over the next decade, as was discussed at the Annual Meeting, INSEN will increase its development of new online and distance learning tools to reach even further.