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IAEA Group Fellowship Training

In February 2014, a dozen attendees participated in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Group Fellowship Training program which was custom-designed to provide an overview of issues associated with developing a Nuclear Power Program (NPP) in a "newcomer" country. The participants were from various countries on the African continent (i.e., Egypt, Tunisia, Niger, Kenya, Algeria), as well as Vietnam. Collectively, their professions included accountants, mid-level managers, safety officers, technical (engineers and scientists), as well as customer relations, and they represented governmental agencies (e.g., ministries, electrical boards and nuclear power plant authorities) and private companies. The issues included discussions on the economics and planning of an NPP, as well as in-depth coverage of NPP project management, legal framework, project finance, the nuclear safety culture, and regulatory requirements. Also included were lecture sessions on Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) which may be of particular interest for newcomer countries. Information on these topics was provided by speakers who are recognized experts in their field. During the one-month training, participants had the opportunity to travel out-of-town to visit a nuclear power station, nearby schools, and local government to see first-hand how the safety culture, community and student outreach and community acceptance play a major role in a successful NPP operation. The trip also included a visit to a two-year educational institution which offers programs that emphasize the training of technical workers for employment in a NPP.

Week 1 began with technical presentations by Texas A&M nuclear engineering faculty on atomic & nuclear physics, as well as reactor fundamentals; this was followed by radiation safety lectures provided by the A&M Radiation Safety Officer. A partner at Morgan Lewis, LLP (Energy Practice division) delivered a presentation on a national legal framework for nuclear power projects, and a representative from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission explained the importance of a strong nuclear regulatory body. Information about nuclear education (e.g., nuclear engineering curriculum as well as reactor operator training/certification) was also provided to the participants. The week culminated in a day-long presentation on milestones for implementing a nuclear project, as presented by a senior official at Westinghouse Electric Company.

During Week 2, experts in the nuclear power industry provided valuable information on nuclear project management as well as the safety culture in the nuclear power industry. The rest of the week focused on an out-of-town trip to the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant (near Glen Rose, Texas). During the trip, participants met with Glen Rose high school teachers and students associated with the Workforce Industry Training (WIT) outreach group, as well as meeting a local county official who addressed the impact of nuclear power on the local community. The trip concluded with a visit to the Texas State Technical College (Waco, Texas), where the participants received information on their certification programs and toured various labs and facilities associated a nuclear power program at a two-year educational institution.

Week 3 began with project management lectures from a representative of the Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant, and was followed by presentations from NPI nuclear engineering faculty on the nuclear fuel cycle (both technical and economic aspects) and Small Modular Reactor (SMR) technology. Additional instruction on SMRs was provided by an expert from Generation mPower. The participants also attended a Nuclear Engineering 101 class, and learned more about NPI's outreach program to middle school and high school students.

During the final week (Week 4), a business development officer from Export-Import Bank of the United States shared valuable information regarding financial planning for a nuclear power plant. Additional presentations were provided by A&M nuclear engineering faculty on nuclear knowledge management as well as the economics of SMRs. Participants also received a lecture on the electric grid and the smart grid. The final presentation of training program focused on global nuclear liability (conventions and treaties), and was provided by the Assistant General Counsel of the U.S. Department of Energy.

During the month-long program, attendees participated in various exercises (e.g., nuclear power communications; nuclear reactor simulators), visited various A&M research laboratories and facilities (e.g., Nuclear Science Center and Cyclotron Institute), and were involved in an emergency response exercise at TEEX Disaster City.

In addition, the attendees had the opportunity to participate in team projects. At the beginning of the program, participants were divided into two work groups for a team project. Throughout the 4-week program, participants worked on their team project. One of the key features of this activity was the team presentation of the project at the conclusion of the program. Presentation of certificates to each of the participants was the final event of the program.