Nearly 22,000 completed IAEA courses in nuclear security

January 29, 2021, 11:58AMNuclear News

The IAEA's In Young Suh (center) demonstrates nuclear security e-learning modules to participants of the International Conference on Nuclear Security. Photo: C. Mitchell/U.S. Oak Ridge National Laboratory

An International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear security e-learning program is celebrating its 10 years of existence by marking a milestone with nearly 22,000 course completions by nuclear operators, regulators, policy professionals, academics, and students from 170 countries

The IAEA launched the first nuclear security e-learning course, "Use of Radiation Detection Instruments for Front Line Officers," in 2010. Since then, the agency has developed a suite of 17 nuclear security e-learning courses, which are available online at no cost.

The courses include:

  • Overview of nuclear security threats and risks
  • Physical protection
  • Insider threat and information
  • Computer security
  • Other areas of nuclear security

The online courses combine self-paced e-learning with virtual and face-to-face classroom learning. They are frequently prerequisites to instructor-led and classroom-based nuclear security education, training, and capacity building activities, according to the IAEA.

“The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to utilize virtual resources even more actively,” said Elena Buglova, director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security, on January 28. “Nuclear security e-learning is part of a long term effort to provide education and training and help Member States ensure availability of competent staff.”

Supporting human resources: Human resources that can safely and securely use nuclear and other radioactive materials for peaceful purposes are necessary to sustain national nuclear security regimes and to realize benefits derived from nuclear science and technology, the IAEA noted. An important component of such sustainability is a workforce of well educated, trained, and motivated people in the organizations involved in nuclear security.

“The nuclear sector is particularly vulnerable to long term shortages of competent and qualified staff, as personnel currently operating power plants in many countries ‘grew up’ with the reactors, and many are close to retirement,” said Marina Labyntseva, Education and Training Unit head, IAEA Division of Nuclear Security. “We must meet the rising need for human resources in the area of nuclear security for countries embarking on a nuclear power program and the development of nuclear and radiation technologies.”

e-learning info: Face-to-face, classroom-based efforts often attract participants who are established in the nuclear field, according to the IAEA. E-learning, on the other hand, draws in a new generation of learners. A major driver for e-learning enrollment has been the annual International and Regional Schools on Nuclear Security, which attract young professionals. The completion of certain e-learning modules is required for participation in the International Schools, and e-learning course completions peak at 1500 per month while these schools are in session.

“Nuclear security e-learning is free and accessible, even offline, to anyone interested in nuclear security,” said In Young Suh, an IAEA associate training officer in the Division of Nuclear Security. “Whether exploring a particular topic as part of education in nuclear sciences or for professional development, the modules are easy to understand and completely self-paced to fit the learner’s schedule.”

Multi-lingual: To further increase access and reach more audiences, the IAEA has been translating the courses to the six official United Nations languages and launched its first translated module in 2019. Of the 17 courses, 11 are available in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish; the remaining six will be available in May 2021.

“The overall mission of nuclear security—to make sure that no nuclear or other radioactive material and associated facilities are misused with malicious purposes—is a fundamentally unifying one,” said Buglova. “To execute this mission, we need everybody from every country, language, and culture; from every aspect of operations involving nuclear or other radioactive material, including operators, guards, contractors, janitors and cafeteria staff.”

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