Some ASEAN Member States (AMS) such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand explored nuclear as potential energy source since 1960s and 1970s to secure their future energy demand. To embark on the nuclear programme, one of the important aspects is to prepare the human capital to run the project. Nuclear technology requires specific skills and competence due to the complexity of its system and high safety requirement, so it is important to train and educate potential personnel in order to successfully run the nuclear project. To embark on a long-term nuclear planning, some AMS prepare their human resource, among other by sending personnel to study in mature-nuclear countries, preparing nuclear training centre, and incorporating nuclear-related subjects in the curriculum of higher education institutes. It is possible to introduce nuclear power by relying totally on foreign expertise, for example through build-operate-transfer (BOT) mechanism. However in order to ensure the sustainability and reduce the dependency on foreign experts, it is necessary for the country to build their national expertise.
The nuclear sector covers many business areas which include among other construction, operation and maintenance, decommissioning, research and development, as well as non-power application (such as medical, agricultural and industrial). To effectively and safely operate and maintain a nuclear facility—for power and non-power applications—the typical operating organisation must have a complete staff that cover all of the required expertise such as nuclear science or engineering, instrumentation and control, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, radiation protection, chemistry, emergency preparedness, safety analysis, radioactive management, project management, quality assurance and maintenance. Expertise in nuclear is also needed for personnel of regulatory body to effectively develop nuclear standards and guidance, licensing procedure, inspection and monitoring measures.
Preparing human resources for nuclear programme requires a long-term process and strategic coordination from related stakeholders i.e. government, private sector, and educational institutions. The government shall develop a clear nuclear roadmap and policy as a framework of the national energy planning. They also need to allocate funding for nuclear research and educational programme. The clear nuclear roadmap from the government will lead the educational sector to develop better curriculum to provide and transfer relevant knowledge to the students, as well as to conduct relevant research projects in order to support the roadmap. A clear policy will also give better insight to the industry in infrastructures and business planning to support the government’s roadmap. With good national roadmap, academic institutions and the industry can benefit each other: the knowledge and skills of the students could match the needs of the industry; possible areas of cooperation can be better defined to enhance human resource’s capacity such us student internship, joint research projects, and technical visits.
Some higher education institutes in AMS provide nuclear-related subjects in their programme, among others: National University of Malaysia, University of Technology Malaysia (Malaysia), University of Gadjah Mada, Polytechnic Institute of Nuclear Technology (Indonesia), and Chulalongkorn University (Thailand). Since there is no operating nuclear power plant (NPP) in the region, or concrete plans for a new NPP in the near future, the expertise are mostly used at nuclear research centres, universities, nuclear regulatory bodies, and non-power nuclear application fields. However, it is essential for everybody in nuclear industry to build the network and conduct joint projects at the regional and international levels to allow the exchange of knowledge and experience, as well as to stay updated with recent developments in nuclear technology. Last but not least, the commitment and support from government would bring positive impact to the education sector; young talents are motivated to explore nuclear studies and further choose a career in nuclear-related fields. A clear path on human resource development programme will forge AMS to face the challenges and get ready to implement their future nuclear programme. (Featured photo credit: EDF France)
Nahrul Khair and Ainul Hayati, Prospect for Nuclear Engineering Education in Malaysia, 2009 International Conference on Nuclear Education, Kuala Lumpur.
IAEA Nuclear Energy Series, Status and Trends in Nuclear Education, 2011.