Viewpoint: The networks building bridges between youth and nuclear sector

11 May 2023

Anna Talarowska, chair of the European Nuclear Young Generation Forum 2023 (ENYGF), on the importance for young people, and the wider nuclear sector, of Young Generation Networks (YGNs) and the biennial forum which is taking place in Krakow, Poland, from 8-12 May.

More than 200 people are attending the conference (Image: ENYGF)

In almost every country using nuclear technologies, youth nuclear communities are a bridge between the perspective of a young person on their career goals and the nuclear sector in need of workforce. Currently in Europe, more than 4000 people are engaged in their local YGNs and participating in the ENS-YGN, the Europe-wide youth network.

This activity by young people is their direct contribution to showing the attractiveness of working in the sector and enhancing the workforce retention of nuclear sector.

The main event reuniting this crowd every two years is the European Nuclear Young Generation Forum, with its current edition taking place in Poland this week.

What the youth needs to come and stay in the nuclear sector

The conference is designed for young people by young people. Therefore, while ENYGF is a biannual event taking only several days, it reflects what the youngest members of the nuclear space see as essential in their long-term career beyond a good salary and a modern workplace. The forum is a platform for young people to share their scientific findings as well as industrial experiences nurturing constant skills and expertise development.

Apart from scientific sessions, there are also technical tours which provide a chance to expand technical understanding of different nuclear topics. Additionally, the conference is full of soft skills training, necessary for successful performance in any workplace. One of the characteristics of the forum is its multidisciplinarity, allowing participants to get a comprehensive overview of cutting-edge research as well as on the nuclear sector's different issues around the world. It instils the cross-professional and international cooperation required to face many challenges of nuclear these days, like international harmonisation of regulations, supply chain standardisation, creation of international policies on nuclear and climate change issues.

The major objective of the organisers is to put stress on the topics that are in the centre of interest and inspiration of the youth contributing and interested in the nuclear sector. This ENYGF edition has four Hot Topics: Energy transition and all its colours; Neutrons for progress focusing on the scientific and medical nuclear technologies; Communication, policy and education that are the backbones of prosperity and acceptance of the nuclear sector; as well as Future nuclear inspiring with novel designs and findings.

However, deepening the understanding of the nuclear sector is not only learning about new technologies, but also learning from those with more experience on how to use one’s potential to the fullest. For this reason, one of the constant programme elements is the mentoring opportunity and learning about the art of mentorship.

For the second time, the conference will host the finale of innovation contest I4N Europe (Innovation for Nuclear). This is the conclusion of a competition held in several European countries by local YGNs, teaching its young participants about innovative thinking and idea development in the nuclear space.

Symbolic location

ENYGF 2023 is taking place in Poland, a country which once resigned from nuclear power and is now coming back to the game at full speed. In the 1980s, Poland started construction of a nuclear power plant at Zarnowiec, on the country’s Baltic sea coast. Due to financial troubles related to the political transformation as well as public opposition, the project was abandoned at the end of 1990.

But now Poland is a newcomer country with one of the most ambitious plans for the development of nuclear power, including large and small units to be developed by both public and private sectors. A major youth event in this location brings hope that tides can turn even for countries opposed to nuclear energy and continued efforts of capacity building will bear fruit in the future. This is needed to ensure sustainable development of societies in the face of climate change and the growing world population.

This is only a part of the story

The ENYGF is a major event in the calendars of more than 200 ambitious young professionals, but the youth communities work actively to provide opportunities and a sense of identification to students and early career professionals through events and projects every day. With support from the nuclear industry and academia, these efforts will improve the nuclear workforce condition in the future.