Below is a guest blog from Kale Stallert, an alumnus from the CNA’s student participation program – a program that sponsors 100 nuclear engineering and science students from across the country to come to Ottawa for the Annual Canadian Nuclear Association Conference and Tradeshow. Last month, Kale participated in the 36th CNS/CNA Student Conference, part of the CNS Conference in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and shares his thoughts and observations from the student perspective on knowledge transfer and industry renewal.
The Transfer of Knowledge
This year, we celebrate the 50th year of nuclear generated electricity in Canada. It’s a well-known fact that the nuclear power industry is aging worldwide. Facilities across the globe are reaching their originally scheduled end of life and many are beginning refurbishment projects to continue to generate electricity into the future.
It is not only the technology and infrastructure that is aging, but a large percentage of the nuclear industry workforce as well. As Baby Boomers begin to retire at a rapid rate, the industry must replace their knowledge and experience. The industry has recognized that the failure to transfer knowledge to the next generation is an issue that must be addressed.
The International Atomic Energy Agency’s TECDOC 1399 is devoted entirely to addressing the difficulties of an aging workforce and the transfer of knowledge to the next generation. Yet, such an emphasis is placed on imparting knowledge to the next generation that sometimes the innovative new knowledge that the next generation brings to the table is overlooked. People tend to forget the benefit of bringing fresh eyes to old problems.
The 36th Annual CNS-CNA Student Conference provided a refreshing role reversal. University students and recent graduates from across the country were able to showcase their work to Canada’s nuclear industry in a nurturing and supportive atmosphere. Student poster topics ranged from the development of heat transfer correlations for fourth generation supercritical water reactors, to an investigation of radioactive balloons.
It was a reciprocal knowledge transfer, as attendees had the opportunity to learn something new and relevant from each student presenter and students were able to network and receive valuable input on their projects. Every person in attendance left knowing something they did not know when they arrived.
The transfer of knowledge should not be seen as a one-way street but instead as a multi-lane highway where experience and knowledge can flow freely in both directions. The 36th Annual CNS-CNA Student Conference was an excellent way to begin widening the road.
Kale Stallaert recently graduated with highest distinction from Canada’s only undergraduate Nuclear Engineering Program at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. He interned with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and completed his undergraduate thesis alongside Ontario Power Generation – Nuclear. Kale served a term as the Branch Chair of the Canadian Nuclear Society’s UOIT Branch and remains an active member.