Nuclear Knowledge Management (NKM)

“We need to continue and build upon the good work that has been done in Nuclear Knowledge Management (NKM) over the past decade. Nuclear organizations are beginning to understand the vital link between knowledge management and safety.  The success of peaceful nuclear technologies is directly tied to safety.  However, specific and advanced levels of knowledge are typically needed to achieve and maintain the high levels of safety required. Appropriate technical expertise and experience must be developed and be available throughout the nuclear technology life-cycle. If we do not have a required technical knowledge, a full understanding of the potential consequences of our decisions and actions may not be possible, and safety may be compromised.  

Effective decision making during design, licensing, procurement, construction, commissioning, operation, maintenance, refurbishment, and decommissioning of nuclear facilities needs to be risk-informed and knowledge-driven. Nuclear technology is complex and brings with it inherent and unique risks that must be managed to acceptably low levels. Nuclear facilities may have very long life-cycles with changing operational conditions. Our ability to take safe decisions and actions is continually being threatened by the risk of knowledge loss.  To ensure safety, we have a responsibility not only to establish adequate technical knowledge and experience in our nuclear organizations but also to maintain it.  This is the reason why nuclear knowledge management is so important”

de Grosbois, John
Section Head


About the Program

Nuclear Knowledge Management (NKM) has become an increasingly important element of the nuclear sector in recent years, resulting from a number of challenges and trends:

  • Countries with expanding nuclear programmes require skilled and trained human resources to design and operate future nuclear installations. Capacity building through training and education and transferring knowledge from centres of knowledge to centres of growth are key issues.
  • In countries with stagnating nuclear programmes, the challenge is to secure the human resources needed to sustain the safe operation of existing installations, including their decommissioning and related programmes for spent fuel and waste. Replacing retiring staff and attracting the young generation to a career in the nuclear field are key challenges.
  • Non-power applications of nuclear technologies require a stable or even growing base of nuclear knowledge and trained human resources, be it for cancer treatment or for food and agriculture. This need is present in all Member States using nuclear technologies, independent of the use of nuclear power.
  • Networking education and training and working on mutually accepted curricula can make studying nuclear subjects more attractive, facilitate exchange of human resources and contribute to the development of educational quality benchmarks.
  • The scientific and technical heritage of several decades of nuclear development, existing in a decentralized manner in many Member States with mature nuclear programmes, requires to be assessed, and valuable knowledge needs to be preserved for future use.
  • Access to existing nuclear knowledge can be improved in many cases, and sharing and pooling knowledge can contribute to development and innovation.

Recognizing the importance of these developments, the IAEA General Conference of 2006 reiterated earlier resolutions on nuclear knowledge that request the IAEA to develop corresponding activities. Addressing these challenges, the IAEA is implementing a special subprogramme on Nuclear Knowledge Management which focuses on:

  • Developing methodologies and guidance documents for nuclear knowledge management;
  • Facilitating nuclear education, training and information exchange; and
  • Assisting Member States in maintaining and preserving nuclear knowledge.