As the nuclear security e-learning programme celebrates 10 years, the milestone is marked 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. From the foundational Overview of Nuclear Security Threats and Risks to the more specific Physical Protection, Insider Threat and Information and Computer Security, the courses cover all major areas of nuclear security. These online courses are essential to the blended learning approach that combines self-paced e-learning with virtual and face-to-face classroom courses. They complement and are frequently pre-requisites to instructor-led and classroom-based nuclear security education, training and capacity building activities.
“The COVID-19 pandemic forced us to utilize virtual resources even more actively,” said Elena Buglova, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security. “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 utilize 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. An important component of such sustainability is a workforce of well educated, trained and motivated people in all the main 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 programme and the development of nuclear and radiation technologies.”
Face-to-face, classroom-based capacity building efforts often attract participants who are established in the nuclear field. E-learning, on the other hand, draws in a new generation of learners. One of the major drivers for e-learning enrolment 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.”
To further increase access and reach more audiences, the IAEA has been translating the courses to the six official UN 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.”
E-learning is one of the four pillars of the IAEA nuclear security capacity building programme. The IAEA also assists Member States in accomplishing their human resource priorities through nuclear security education, training, knowledge management and professional networks.