Innovation and climate change, From COP15 to the present day
By Martin Boissavit, SFEN YGN President
What do the Young Generation Networks (YGNs) bring to our community of nuclear workers? Does this help the industry? Does this make the world a better place?
When I look at our networks, the most obvious answer is that the Young Generation in Nuclear (YGN) is a great source of energy for the nuclear industry. It is able to fight for what it believes in and it can also be a source of creativity and inspiration for every generation of workers.
To understand how, we have to highlight that the nuclear YGNs are formed of passionate people. This passion and enthusiasm are the sources of the incredible amount of energy that the YGNs bring to the nuclear sector. Since 2010 in France, and 2012 at an international level, I have been working with young professionals and students. They really believe that their actions matter and that they can make the world a better place.
In 2014, Nuclear for Climate was born. This grass root initiative promotes the advantages of the nuclear energy regarding climate change challenges (http://nuclearforclimateygn.org).
Since the beginning of this international adventure, the Young Generation is one of the pillars of Nuclear for Climate using the dynamism of young people from every continent. From COP21 in Paris to COP23 in Bonn, the Nuclear for Climate initiative has grown with the commitment of the YGNs. I have seen young people spending their holidays in Bonn defending and arguing not only on the strategic use of nuclear as a low carbon electricity source but also on technical issues such Uranium mining, fission-product transmutation in fast breeder reactors, or geologicallong-term waste repositories around the world. We need the personal commitment of young professionals and students to achieve Nuclear for Climate’s goals and make the voice of the nuclear energy heard! They deeply strengthen the message they deliver to Non-Government Organisations (NGOs), politicians or civil servants as they are the very ones who will live in the world that will spring up from the COP conferences: without this astonishing driving force, this movement cannot be successful.
The YGNs are also a source of creativity and inspiration for every generation, as many examples show, such as the workshops during international young generation conferences and the innovation contests: Innovatome (http://innovatome.org), The Spark! Contest (http://www.thesparkcontest.org), and Innovation for Nuclear (I4N – http://www.iync.org/i4n). These national and international contests bring together students, young professionals, experts and senior executives to design tomorrow’s world using knowledge and experience from senior leaders and mixing it up with new ways of thinking that belong to the next generation of the nuclear industry. This has given birth to a new Artificial Intelligence for the protection of workers and the monitoring of nuclear facilities, as well as a proposal for new international co-operation within the fuel cycle to build a sustainable nuclear by 2040.
The Young Generation is very good at being itself: exchanging, fighting, creating! In almost a decade, I have seen many young people bringing their amazing energy to our networks from international cooperation such as IYNC or more locally. IYNC’s anniversary is the best opportunity to tell you to join us and take part in this amazing adventure that is the Young Generation Networks!
Twenty and Ten-Time for a Review
The IYNC is a success story of a truly international grassroots initiative that has organically grown to become a self-governed and democratic professional organization represented in over 50 countries on 6 continents.
By mid-1990s, the need for special measures to bridge the age gap in the nuclear field has been well recognized and various young generation (YG) groups were launched at corporate and national levels. The ENS YGN became the first regional network. There were still neither major international events run by the YG, nor a platform that would help to coordinate various YG activities at a global level. The beginning of mass adoption of a new technology of the time, Internet, came in handy for us to help fix that.
The idea of the IYNC came to being in 1997 when our international young team was preparing the first-of-a-kind «Youth and Plutonium Challenge» forum to be held a year later in Obninsk, Russia – the location of the world’s first nuclear power plant. The concept of a more general global YG conference grew out of our interactions with IAEA. In fact, the forum served as a test-bed for trying and testing the approaches that would later become the main driving forces of the IYNC. The idea proved to be viral and started to spread when the participants of the forum agreed to work together toward the first Congress.
Having developed the Mission Statement in Nice, France and chosen Bratislava, Slovakia as the location for the IYNC‑2000, we embarked on this exciting journey. We had to develop a new ‘product’ from scratch and ‘sell’ it to participants and sponsors. The Executive Committee was open to all willing to contribute with an immense amount of time and efforts, in exchange for invaluable experiences, friends on all continents and satisfaction of making a unique global project a success.
It is not a surprise that the team with such motivation was eager to do things by itself in its own way. Thus independence of IYNC came naturally as a crucial element of its modus operandi. ‘Naturally’ did not always equal ‘easily’. We had to overcome the skepticism of some older-generation colleagues, convinced that ‘this project will not fly like that!’ and to resist takeover attempts by traditional industrial formats. Our great experienced advisors and supporters, who believed in the idea, played a big role in making it possible. The IYNC did not have a safety net of a parent organization and could only rely on the financial and in‑kind support that we would gain through our promotional efforts. We were free to succeed or fail.
The Congress in Bratislava became a great success. The IYNC Network was born there, agreement about the next Congress in South Korea reached and plans for the first in-between activities made. What could have ended up as a one-off event started to grow and replicate itself. As one of the IYNC founders, August Fern, once said: “we did not know that it was impossible, so we did it”. The ‘IYNC virus’ has been infecting generation after generation of volunteers since then.
Each biennial Congress has been an important stage in the development of IYNC. The efficient governance and operating systems which had emerged from the principles, practices, and approaches developed in-house in the early days of the movement remained very informal and mostly unwritten till 2004 when the adopted IYNC Bylaws captured and codified them. They are democratic, open, widely international and based on the enthusiasm of passionate volunteers. They provide checks and balances to ensure that active voices will be heard but the IYNC will not be controlled by any country, organization or group. National YG networks and active volunteers represented on the IYNC Board govern the organization. The tried and tested revenue model generates financial resources enabling the IYNC to support YG activities worldwide.
The results of the first strategic review of IYNC in 20 years, initiated by President Denis Janin, will be presented to the 10th biennial Congress in Argentina by the Strategy Committee this year. A lot has changed outside and inside the organization over this time and the new Strategy will need to respond accordingly.
However, some fundamentals remain as relevant as they were back in 1997. Knowledge transfer in the nuclear field and Communication with the outside world remain the key domains where nuclear YG can maximize its value for the nuclear community and society at large. The biennial Congress has established itself as the meeting point of YG organizations from around the world. The demand for coordination of their activities and cross-pollination of ideas is only growing. The IYNC is well placed to strengthen its de-facto status of the global network of networks in addition to the network of individuals and offer its Platform to the ever-growing ranks of the like-minded YG initiatives.
Fundamentally, the strengths of the IYNC stem from its ability to attract and organize bright young enthusiasts of nuclear from around the World. They are eager to make a difference and choose the IYNC for the unique experiences that they get from working with international peers on important tasks in an independent global community enjoying the exciting organizational culture, inclusive governance, and special operating system. Above all, it is strategically important for IYNC to retain and strengthen these capabilities.
I also believe that it is crucial for the IYNC’s identity that the organization remains Independent, Global, YG, and Depoliticized.
IYNC Founder and First President
General Co-Chair of IYNC-2000, 2002, 2004
Chairman of the ENS YGN 2003-2005
Founder and President of Russian YGN 1996-1998