The concept and objectives of the GENTLE Project

Graduate and Executive Nuclear Training and Lifelong Education

The continued interest in nuclear power in numerous developed countries, including several EU Member States, and an increasing interest in emerging/developing economies create a growing demand for highly educated nuclear engineers and scientists in industry, research, technical safety and governmental organisations. A highly skilled and well informed workforce is essential to maintain the current civil nuclear reactor fleet safely, decommission obsolete plants, be involved in new build where policy dictates, and deal with the legacy and future radioactive wastes. In view of this, education and training (E&T) in the field of Nuclear Science and Technology is a key component of the nuclear infrastructure worldwide, as clearly stated at the G8 2009 Summit.[1] However, concerns have been raised that nuclear education and training is not at the level where it should be, as summarized in the OECD/NEA report[2] “Nuclear Training and Education. Cause for Concern?”, as is evident from:

  • The decreasing number and the dilution of nuclear training programmes.
  • The decreasing number of students taking nuclear subjects.
  • An ageing nuclear workforce.
  • The lack of young faculty members to replace ageing and retiring faculty members.
  • Ageing research facilities, which are being closed and not replaced.
  • The significant fraction of nuclear graduates not entering the nuclear industry.

These concerns as well as the need to maintain the current high level of nuclear safety, led the Council of the European Union to conclude that it “is of the view that it is essential to maintain in the European Union a high level of training in the nuclear field[3]. Also the Working Group on Education, Training and Knowledge Management (ETKM) of the Sustainable Nuclear Energy Technology Platform (SNETP) recognised the risks of loss of nuclear knowledge if no measures are taken, and stressed the need for involvement and cooperation between key public and private organisations and stakeholders in the field of Training and Education.[4]
In response, several higher education organisations in the European Union and associated countries have initiated Master of Science degrees in either nuclear science or nuclear technology or nuclear oriented specialisation within other programmes during the last decades. They offer a wide scope of courses and training in the nuclear field for the MSc graduates. However, they have limited opportunities for working with radioactive materials in practical quantities and are thus generally lacking the possibility of specialisation in tracks strongly related to the nuclear fuel cycle, for which the handling of nuclear materials is required. Because of these specific infrastructure needs, nuclear education and training has
notbeen the domain of the academic institutions alone, in contrast to other fields of science and technology. The knowledge and capabilities of handling nuclear materials is traditionally concentrated in national and international research facilities that have the appropriate infrastructure, ensuring the high level of safety and security required. As a result, nuclear education and training have been the combined effort of universities and (inter)national laboratories in many countries. The role of the European Commission in this context was defined in the Euratom Treaty (Rome, 1957) in which it is explicitly mentioned that “The Commission shall be responsible for promoting and facilitating nuclear research in the Member States and for complementing it by carrying out a Community research and training programme.”
In the light of this, the GENTLE Coordination and Support Action, a joint effort by leading academic and research institutions in Europe, is proposed in the frame of the Euratom Fission Training Schemes to coordinate an E&T programme in the field of nuclear fission technology. The members of the consortium will jointly contribute to the overall
objective to create a sustainable lifelong E&T programme in the field of Nuclear Fission Technology that meets the needs of the European stakeholders from industry, research and technical safety organisations. Improvement of the educational efforts in Europe will be realised by effective collaboration and coordination within the GENTLE consortium, dialogue with key stakeholders the “employers”, and integration of the activities with other European E&T efforts. Specifically, the GENTLE project aims at the successful implementation of the following joint E&T tools:

  • Student research projects (SRPs) to facilitate
    studentsfrom the participating universities to get hands-on experience in Europe’s unique and specialised laboratories and participate to cutting-edge research and student internships (SIs) in research and industry, increasing the value of the students’ curriculum significantly.
  • Intersemester courses for graduate and post graduate
    studentson special industry related topics, which will be provided by academics and specialists from research and industry.
  • An executive master course for
    young professionalsworking in, among others, industry, consultancy companies or regulatory bodies, to enhance their knowledge of nuclear reactors and fuel cycles. These modular training courses on the key topics in the nuclear technology field will accumulate in an executive European Master of Science.

The focus of GENTLE is on nuclear energy (reactors and fuel cycles) and this answers the needs defined by SNE-TP. Specifically it addresses the following recommendations of the ETKM Working group of SNETP:

  • Key stakeholders in nuclear energy and academic institutions should engage in a joint action to optimise the curricula of academic programmes related to nuclear energy with special regard to the needs by 2020 and to potential synergies between academic and non-academic programmes for graduates.
  • Private-public partnerships for nuclear education and training need further support and funding in order to be able to cater for expansion in E&T programmes, the training of trainers and providing necessary guidance.
  • The existing European initiatives for facilitating transnational access to facilities for the purpose of education and training should be optimised and coordinated in view of building a European platform for E&T-related facilities and IT infrastructure.

The uniqueness of the GENTLE project lies in the facts that it offers high level education and training through combination of Europe’s top class teachers with Europe’s unique nuclear infrastructure, thus providing an exceptionally well informed holistic approach, that will help Europe to maintain its leading position in the nuclear fission field, and attract high quality students and young professionals from all over the world.


[1] http://www.g8italia2009.it/static/G8_Allegato/NSSG_ET-ICB_Final_28May_OK%5B1%5D,0.pdf

[2] http://www.nea.fr/ndd/reports/2000/nea2428-education.pdf

[3] http://register.consilium.europa.eu/pdf/en/08/st15/st15406.en08.pdf

[4] Nuclear Education and Training. Key elements of a Sustainable European strategy. www.SNETP.eu