Written by 9:44 am Opinion, Staff's Picks

OECD Nuclear Energy Agency: The persistent gender gap in the nuclear sector impacts the future viability of nuclear energy around the world

On September 28-29 in Paris, the representatives of the nuclear industry in OECD nations issued the following communiqué at the inaugural Government-Industry “Roadmaps to New Nuclear” conference organized by the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and the Government of France.

The communiqué was issued by the Canadian Nuclear Association, the Candu Owners Group Inc., Gifen, Japan Atomic Industrial Forum, Korea Atomic Industrial Forum, Nuclear Energy Instiute, nucleareurope, Nuclear Industry Association and World Nuclear Association.

As we read in the document the representatives:[…] intend to consider the need for collaboration and investments in education and training programs to develop a skilled workforce capable of supporting the construction, operation, and maintenance of existing and new nuclear power plants, as well as dismantling and waste management, ensuring a sustainable talent pipeline for the global nuclear industry.

Many NEA member countries face serious skills shortages that must be addressed in the next decade and beyond if nuclear technologies are to be applied safely and effectively. There is a demand for more scientists and engineers with the capacity to support new projects, effective regulation, and advanced research and development, and who can also serve as key leaders in the future.

Among important areas of particular cooperation, the representatives agreed to: Promote an inclusive and diverse nuclear industry, including in the areas of gender diversity, building on the 2023 OECD Recommendation on Improving the Gender Balance in the Nuclear Sector.

The Recommendation, adopted in June 2023 aims to establish a single, comprehensive set of principles and policy recommendations to assist governments, other public authorities, and relevant stakeholders in their efforts to design and implement policies that increase the representation of women in the nuclear sector and enhance their contributions, especially in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) roles and leadership positions.

A lack of gender balance represents a tremendous loss of potential innovation and growth and a critical threat to the future viability of the field. Science and engineering benefit from diverse teams to spur collaboration and development and to drive productivity.

William D. Magwood, IV, NEA Director-General, said: “The persistent gender gap in the nuclear sector impacts the future viability of nuclear energy around the world. The NEA made it a priority to move beyond simply discussing the issue and to work with its member countries to develop a focused and specific policy framework to make a real difference to improve the gender balance in the nuclear sector. We expect to see that a broad range of organisations stand ready to work with governments to implement these policy recommendations.”

NEA analyses highlight that total nuclear energy production needs to triple by 2050 for governments around the world to achieve net zero emissions. To achieve this, the nuclear sector must grow and diversify its workforce, but this will be extremely difficult unless it attracts more women.

According to NEA, attracting, retaining, and supporting a gender-balanced workforce is important for the nuclear sector’s sustainability and is of increasing importance to many NEA member countries.

Governments are highly influential in the nuclear sector due to their extensive involvement in nuclear technology activities. The recommendations agreed by OECD countries will help attract more women to nuclear science and technology careers and remove barriers to their advancement in nuclear organisations.

Source: OECD Nuclear Energy Agency