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EU flags up wrinkly nuke-boffin knowhow loss threat

Even non-nuclear nations must train replacements

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The assembled member states of the European Union have warned that the continent's nuclear boffins are getting old, and not being replaced fast enough. The EU says this problem should be addressed by all nations - even those that don't fancy nuclear power - training more specialists and allowing them to move about more freely, probably by adopting a common qualification scheme.

The EU and member states announced their concern following summit meetings held earlier this week. The assembled ministers note that no less than 31 per cent of Europe's electricity comes from fission reactors, with fully 152 in service.

According to the European Council statement:

It is necessary to take appropriate measures to ensure that the nuclear option remains open to Member States that have chosen or will choose it...

Training in the nuclear field does not solely involve those Member States which have chosen the nuclear option for energy production; all the Member States, since they have research installations or make use of radioactive materials (particularly for medical purposes), need to maintain expertise...

Owing to the age pyramid within the nuclear sector, numerous retirements are scheduled in the short term ... there is a real risk of the loss of nuclear knowledge for the European Union ... the preservation of skills in the nuclear field requires a general effort involving public and private players and in particular the nuclear industry. This preservation of skills must be based on extensive high-quality research capacities ...

The Brussels bigwigs reckon in essence that Germany may not much fancy nuclear power (for instance) but young Germans wishing to study in the field should still be able to. Furthermore, if these Germans then wish to go and work in the large French or Swiss nuclear sectors, their qualifications should be accepted: likewise, of course, in the case of the UK government's planned new wave of nuclear stations.

Similarly, as well as being able to move between countries, nuke boffins should be able to move more easily between different parts of the nuclear business - in and out of regulation, research, operations etc.

However, though the statement makes much use of words like "INSISTS" and "STRONGLY EMPHASISES" in its call to action, there isn't a lot in the way of concrete stuff which will definitely now happen. However, the permanent Brussels bureaucracy - the European Commission - is invited to report back to the Council whenever it has anything fresh on the matter.

The Council statement can be read here (pdf). ®

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