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Developing Nuclear Energy Capacity Training Program for Kenyans

In June 2013, twenty representatives from Kenya traveled to Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) to participate in a four-week program hosted by the Nuclear Power Institute. The training program was tailored to support the development of a national nuclear power program in Kenya, and was custom-designed to meet the needs of this diverse group. The participants represented a range of organizations in Kenya, including governmental agencies as well as private and public companies. The backgrounds of the attendees were varied, and included people from technical fields (i.e., scientists and engineers), human resources, compliance, law, finance, safety, environmental regulation, and management.

The training program kicked-off with a series of lectures and class exercises that provided basic information regarding atomic physics, radiation & radiation safety, the fuel cycle, and the basics of nuclear chain reactions. This information familiarized the participants with the requirements of a reactor and the basics of operation, and the infrastructure required when building a national nuclear power program. The program attendees participated in a practical using the Texas A&M nuclear engineering department's research reactor. Week 1 wrapped up with a day-long interactive discussion on developing the needed nuclear expertise to support a national power program (i.e., nuclear engineering curriculum, reactor operator training/certification, and more).

The activities during Week 2 focused on familiarizing the program participants with the requirements of an electrical generation facility. Lectures included thermodynamics and plant systems, sustainable development, Texas's regulatory programs for radioactive materials licensing, the safety culture in the nuclear industry, and the U.S. new nuclear development. The last half of the week was a three-day out-of-town trip. An off-site training at an operating nuclear power plant (South Texas Project Nuclear Operating Company ) was the focal point of the trip. While at the facility, participants learned about plant management, operations and security, a workforce management plan, licensing and regulatory affairs, public communications and partnerships, and an overview of environmental protection. During the trip, the participants also visited a nearby two-year educational institution (Wharton County Community College) to learn about their Nuclear Power Technology Program, as well as a stopover at one of the public high schools to meet with students. The trip wrapped up with a presentation by a local county official who addressed the impact of nuclear power on the local community.

During Week 3, the participants received an overview of the nuclear sector of the U.S. government with lectures from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of State and the Department of Energy. This information provided insight into how a regulatory body operates and the importance of the safety culture and how it is implemented, how government can support the development of nuclear energy, and the international civil nuclear regime. The participants also received information on the development of a national legal framework and the economic aspects of a nuclear power program. Lectures on nonproliferation and concepts of nuclear safety, security and safeguards were provided as well, and attendees subsequently participated in a table-top exercise to demonstrate key principles. The week wrapped up with lectures on Small Modular Reactors (SMR) and deployment strategies followed by the engineering design and requirements of an SMR. The final presentation focused on engineering procurement and construction.

Week 4 began with a more detailed discussion of the entire nuclear fuel cycle, which highlighted the need for a broad area of expertise in a nuclear organization. Information on financing and siting was also provided. The participants learned about Generation-III+ systems; an introduction nuclear operations management (including nuclear safety and human performance); decommissioning; emergency response; and more. Towards the end of the week, the program attendees had the opportunity to participate in a radiological emergency management and response simulation at TEEX Disaster City .

Participation on team projects was a key element of the training program. Each team was assigned to a faculty mentor, worked on their project throughout the 4-week program, and gave a team presentation at the end of the program. The project topics were (1) Energy Planning; (2) Management System of a Nuclear Regulatory Body; (3) Human Resource Development, (4) Radiation Protection & Environmental Monitoring, and (5) Influencing National Attitudes about Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Technology.