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A hub for nuclear technology knowledge and competence

Published Nov 12, 2020

The annual symposium of the Swedish Centre for Nuclear Technology (SKC) was held in October. For two days, around 100 researchers, students, and industry representatives gathered digitally to share their knowledge.

The SKC is an information centre that supports education and research in, and development of disciplines with nuclear applications at KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, and Uppsala University. The centre is financed by the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, Forsmarks Kraftgrupp AB, Ringhals AB, OKG AB and Westinghouse Electric Sweden AB.

This year saw the start of a new period of activity within the framework of the centre, which will involve funding of research and education of approximately SEK 52 million. In 2020, the decision was made to fund seven doctoral students and two postdocs in a variety of subject areas including materials technology, modeling, nuclear technological development and more.

Large number of attendees

SKC’s annual symposium is usually a two-day meeting during which education and research supported by the centre is presented regarding current projects and activities. This year, the symposium took place digitally with just over 110 participants. Merja Pukari, SKC director, is very pleased with this year’s attendance.

“We had more participants this year than in previous years because of the digital format. This confirms that more people want to participate than have been able to do so, especially those who have full-time jobs in the industry,” says Pukari.

Because industry participation is so important, plans are being made to enable participants to follow the next symposium digitally alongside the physical meeting.

New pedagogical methods

During the first day of the event, a number of insights were given into courses and research projects provided by the three universities. All courses share an active development and broad use of new, digital pedagogical methods.

“We compete internationally for students, which means that we not only need to be able to offer knowledge but also new ways to attract them,” says Pukari.

KTH and Uppsala University offer Master’s programmes in nuclear technology and particle physics. Jan Dufek, KTH, showed how international students are crucial to running the Master’s programme, as in 2019 not a single Swedish student enrolled. This year, however, the pandemic prevented some student groups from participating.

Christophe Demazière from Chalmers explained that even though Chalmers no longer offers a Master’s degree, it does offer several courses in the field. Within the framework of the academic competence centre SAINT, special training packages have been developed that include recorded lectures, quizzes, and assignments and labs online. As part of this offering, a new textbook has also been produced with 70 recorded lectures and a similar number of quizzes.

In many cases, teaching is conducted in hybrid form and is based on methods such as flipped classrooms and active learning. He stressed that Chalmers has close to 10 years’ experience of developing new forms of education.

Industry representatives in education

Uppsala University’s courses in nuclear technology make widespread use of new pedagogical methods, said Michael Österlund. It also offers a Master’s degree in nuclear and particle physics, a Bachelor’s degree, independent courses, and specially commissioned courses.

Industry representatives also participate in courses, which provides vital knowledge exchange. All those who have completed the courses to qualify as an engineer in nuclear power technology have gone on to find employment in the industry.

A collaboration with the Jožef Stefan Institute in Slovenia has provided an opportunity to create a distance course in which students can use labs at a training reactor with the help of motorized cameras, data links, and other communication tools. A collaboration that is also planned to be expanded for the commissioned training.

This year, Uppsala University also held an introductory course in nuclear technology as a remote summer course. By offering various forms of distance learning solutions as interest in the area has broadened,” said Österlund.

SUNRISE: a flagship project

The afternoon session was packed with updates on a number of ongoing research projects at the universities. Pär Olsson presented SUNRISE, backed with SEK 50 million from SFF. KTH, Luleå University of Technology, Uppsala University and representatives from industry participated. The goal is to work towards a sustainable society through the development of fourth generation of nuclear reactors.

Despite the projecting starting in January 2020, several milestones for the development of the fourth generation nuclear reactor have already been achieved, including in material design and fuel, he said. The goal is to have a demonstration reactor ready by 2025 to develop a holistic concept that is economically sustainable to build and operate.

“SUNRISE is a flagship project and for many years has received the largest research grants for fourth generation development in the areas,” says Pukari.

Now more events are planned within the framework of SKC, she adds. A new feature are the regular question and answer sessions with lectures that can further connect projects, people, and training initiatives. Hosting of these sessions can alternate between KTH, Chalmers, and Uppsala University.

“We need to continue to build our vibrant dialogue and create the right environments for personal contact, especially in research in the field,” says Pukari.

More information about SKC. 

Text by: Magnus Trogen Pahlén