German Nuclear Industry Needs Young Talent

Bonn, 23.05.2000

"Germany must improve its endeavours to remain competent in the field of nuclear energy. Responsibility for doing so lies with both the federal government and industry", said Professor Manfred Popp, head of the Karlsruhe Research Centre (Forschungszentrum Karlsruhe) at the 2000 ANNUAL NUCLEAR ENERGY CONFERENCE in Bonn today (23rd May).

"A complex technology with high safety risks such as nuclear power needs a scientific basis during the time of its application", said Popp. "This means that nuclear law has to be based on the state-of-the-art in science and technology, the international progress of which will not stop even if Germany abandons nuclear energy."

Professor Popp continued: "The future of nuclear technology is not settled, even in Germany. In a democracy no parliamentary majority and no government can be sure that its policies will not be changed by subsequent majorities and governments. The remaining lifetimes of the existing nuclear power plants in Germany, irrespective of what may be agreed in each individual case, are not short enough for us to state that no significant changes can take place on the global energy markets. In fact, responsible politicians should be aiming to keep such options available to future generations." He said that even if this technology were abandoned, there would still be a demand for a new generation of nuclear scientists and technicians.

"The forthcoming generation change in nuclear research is a special problem as far as the preservation of expertise is concerned. The age structure of the present staff shows that a large part of this expertise will be lost in a few years. It is therefore all the more important to maintain the level of expertise, especially in the next few years, with the aim of passing on as much of the experience of the older generation as possible to as many young students as possible through the study of progressive subjects", said Professor Popp. "The number of young people enrolling to study electrical engineering and mechanical/process engineering, which are the classical introductory courses for nuclear engineering, have fallen dramatically", the scientist said. "This dramatic drop in the numbers of young students was initiated by the economic slump in the early nineties, when industry employed hardly any new junior staff. In the meantime the situation has changed considerably, and the demands of industry by far exceed the number of graduates. Despite this, the number of new students has not really recovered. The search for junior staff in nuclear engineering is therefore in keen competition with the demand for young engineers in other specialist disciplines.

"Against this background it is evident that it is particularly difficult for the nuclear industry to recruit young engineers in light of the political situation in our country. This development really does give cause for concern", stated Professor Popp.

"Unfortunately, efforts to safeguard training opportunities for young nuclear scientists have not received the desired level of support from some electric utilities (Energieversorgungsunternehmen - EVU`s), since the EVU`s are not sufficiently interested in the training of specialist junior staff" said Professor Popp, who issued the following appeal: "The scientific organisations in Germany would hope for more support from the business world in a situation that is already difficult enough as far as government funding is concerned. Our common aim must be to ensure there is as much nuclear expertise in Germany as possible."


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