Nuclear knowledge management

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Knowledge management in the nuclear domain


Nuclear knowledge management is an integrated, systemic approach applied to all stages of the nuclear knowledge cycle. It impacts on human resources, information and communication technology, process and document management systems. Thus, corporate and national strategies relating to nuclear safety can be significantly influenced by our ability to manage knowledge both now and in the future. Managing knowledge is an essential enabler of any nuclear power programme.


Knowledge is the nuclear energy industry’s most valuable asset and resource, without which the industry cannot operate safely and economically. In addition to being essential, nuclear knowledge is also very complex, expensive to acquire and maintain, and easily lost. Member states, suppliers, and operating organizations that wish to obtain the benefits of peaceful applications of nuclear technology must also accept the responsibilities that go with it, and this includes a primary responsibility to ensure that the associated nuclear knowledge is sustainable and is sustained.

The industrial infrastructure required to create and maintain the full scope of nuclear knowledge. It can represent a significant economic and technical burden for many Member States. This infrastructure includes research and development (R&D) and technical support organizations, laboratories to handle a wide variety of nuclear materials, research and power reactors, hot cells, reprocessing plants, demonstration facilities and disposal sites. These have to be supported by skilled operators, health physicists, regulatory and licensing bodies, quality and financial controllers. In recent years, the cost of maintaining such an infrastructure has risen. Willingness to share nuclear knowledge means more Member States, particularly in developing regions, are likely to have access to life-changing technology without the crippling burden of infrastructure costs. Effective management of nuclear facilities requires suitably qualified personnel. An important element of human resource management is the management of knowledge — the knowledge that individuals need as part of the competence requirements for assigned tasks and the additional knowledge they acquire in carrying out those tasks. This knowledge will be needed by several generations of the workforce during the lifetime of the nuclear energy programme. As the nuclear workforce ages and retires, the number of suitably qualified and experienced staff will decline and the knowledge they possess may be lost. Action is being taken to address this with the development of higher education programmes that focus, specifically, on nuclear technology and its application. However, many of these programmes in many countries are still in their infancy, and rely on concerted government and academic support — and both bodies are under constant pressure to demonstrate that they make best use of public funding. In some case it could take decades of support before the benefits are realised and, in the meantime, nuclear safety and security may be at risk. Furthermore, innovation will be compromised. Specialist knowledge is needed to apply nuclear technology in medicine, agriculture, industry, disease prevention, water management, electricity production and mineral exploration. If the knowledge accumulated to date is lost, applications will stall and many generations could have a less secure and sustainable future. These factors have led to the need for effective strategies and policies for knowledge management in nuclear organizations [1].

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