The Conference on Nuclear Training and Education (CONTE) is an international forum for the discussion of advances, challenges and learning in nuclear energy training and education attended by more than 300 participants from the nuclear industry, academic community, non-profits, and government. The 2015 meeting was held in Jacksonville, Fla., Feb. 1-4, 2015. Over the course of three days, 27 technical sessions were held covering topics ranging from the current state and future plans of the “Nuclear Uniform Curriculum Program” to the use of technology in training, as well as leadership development and best practices for workforce development in nuclear newcomer countries.
The University of Massachusetts Lowell had strong representation at CONTE through technical program committee participation: Dr. Sukesh Aghara and Dr. Gilbert Brown, and invited luncheon speaker Dr. Marco Marzo contributed papers (Integrated Nuclear Security and Safeguards Laboratory, INSSL and the Nuclear Energy Education and Training, NEET program), and Marzo was a session chair for the Gulf Nuclear Energy Infrastructure Institute Panel.
The NEET program presentation, authored by Aghara, Dr. John White, Brown’s and Reiner Khur (CB&I), highlighted NEET’s unique approach to meeting the evolving needs of a global nuclear workforce by supplementing traditional academic education with short, intense professional development programs. NEET emphasizes adaptable, technically relevant content delivered through topical lectures, group workshops sessions, and exposure to work methods. The program experience also emphasizes mentoring and experiential learning through visits to power reactor installations, networking sessions, and group projects. For nuclear engineering students, especially undergraduates, NEET helps bridge the gap between the classroom and industry by providing direct exposure to nuclear project engineering teams and commercial fundamentals.
Marzo’s presentation, co-authored with Aghara, promoted the concept of integration in developing new nuclear security and safeguards approaches to meet 21st century threats. Through INSSL, UMass Lowell is leading the way in the development of research, education and training tools that support a wide range of international nuclear security and safeguards objectives. As a former Director in the Division of Safeguards at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Marzo is keenly aware of the contemporary proliferation challenges and the limits of the existing verification systems. Marzo addressed these challenges and their implications for human resources training and education in a luncheon address to the conference.
For Brown and Marzo, the key takeaways from the conference included a) the need for more structured academic programs on nuclear security that include technical as well as policy components and b) further investment in research at the nexus of cyber and nuclear security, as well as the development of an articulated research agenda across academic disciplines.