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Chirayu Batra: we should decrease the generation gap

AtomInfo.Ru, PUBLISHED 29.01.2019

Chirayu Batra, associate nuclear engineer in the Division of Nuclear Power, IAEA Department of Nuclear Energy, and president of the UN Vienna-based Nuclear Young Generation organization (UN NYG), answers questions from correspondents for the electronic publication AtomInfo.Ru.


Chirayu Batra, (c) AtomInfo.Ru

Opportunity for youth

What is the main difference between the UN NYG and other nuclear young generation organizations?

The main difference is that we are based in Vienna, where the IAEA has its headquarters. It is a place where many countries are represented. We get excellent opportunities to interact with many experts who come here.

In the case of the national young generation networks, the invited experts are primarily from the same country. But if you do some activities relevant to youths in the Agency, it is very easy to get the experts from different countries and it gives you the different level of engagement and involvement of the experts to your work.

Who could be a member of the UN NYG?

Most of the members of our organization are Agency professional staffers under the age of 37. We invite also different experts who can be of any age and who come to interact with us.

The main pillars of our organization are transfer of knowledge and professional development.

Most of our activities focus on technical areas. Other activities include professional development such as leadership or negotiation skills. We work on the preparation of the next generation's leaders.

This is what we are trying to do in our youth organization.

You mention the leadership but a lot of other societies are talking about the same. What do you mean by leadership? Why the nuclear industry needs the leaders? Maybe it is more important to have more engineers?

I do not want to say this is more or less important because if you have a thousand engineers without a leader I am not sure you can build something. If you have a thousand leaders with no engineers the result would be the same. That is why we need both types of skill.

Do we need more leaders or fewer leaders, that is a quite debatable. But in any case, my personal feeling is that a big knowledge gap and age gap exist in the nuclear industry. You can see a big disparity in the sense of age and you have either very old professionals or very young people. It is the generation gap that should be addressed. This is what we are trying to do.

We need leaders for this work. The leaders can be born or made. In any case I believe that if they are born they should be nurtured and if they are made they should work right from the beginning.

What we try to do in our organization is to create a collaboration platform by inviting experts and sharing information informally with young professionals. But we ask the experts - please try to collaborate with us and then give us an opportunity to make decisions.

I will give you one example. Once we invited IAEA Deputy Director General Mikhail Chudakov, Head of the Department of Nuclear Energy, to one of our events. He came and made a presentation about his life experience. It was a very informal event. We have seen that these kinds of informal events are more helpful and conducive for the transfer of knowledge. For young staffers to interact directly with the DDG is a big deal.

That is how we try to create different kinds of activities which help in transferring knowledge.

Do you cooperate with other nuclear young generation organizations?

We have good cooperation with the International Youth Nuclear Congress and the Russian Young Generation Society. Last year we co-organized a workshop on the generation knowledge gap. We try to create such platforms and activities and we have got a lot of support and interactions with the other societies.

Trieste activities

Let us ask some questions about your work in the Agency. We know that the IAEA and ICTP have many joint activities in Trieste.

Yes, it is true. This year we organized the joint ICTP-IAEA workshop on physics and technology of innovative nuclear energy systems. We have organized a similar one in 2016. I was involved in the organization of both workshops.

There was also a series of activities on fast reactors. We invited participation from people from around the world, specifically from developing countries and young professionals because one of the main goals of these activities was to let the experts share their knowledge with young professionals.

Who selects those young professionals?

It is very competitive process. We open the applications through the ICTP portal. Also, we invite professionals to submit an abstract as part of the application process. Then the scientific selection committee reads the abstracts and decides what abstracts are good enough and relevant and would be selected for the workshop.

We check also the applications as a whole - what is the education background of the applicant, is he/she working on a nuclear system or not, and so on. We try to balance the gender as well as demographic representation during the selection process.

As we know the participants shall do some scientific tasks during the workshops.

That is right. It is a very interesting part of our activities. The main philosophy of our workshops is to have more interactive approaches. Half of the day is reserved to lectures and the rest of the day is reserved to group activities.

For example, for a recent workshop we organized group activities on the Monte-Carlo simulations. We asked the participants to create a small Monte-Carlo code, to do a simple analysis and then to compare their results with the high-fidelity Monte-Carlo code.

Just one day for such complicate work?

Of course, we asked them to write very simple code, and the basics of the code was provided. They had to modify the source code and to try to simulate the given task using the Monte-Carlo method.

And what was the task they had to solve?

The task was to calculate of keff, or the effective multiplication factor.

Also we have poster sections in our workshops. We invite the selected participants to present their research work. At the end we gave awards for the three best poster works and this is to encourage young professionals to continue their research.

May you give an example of poster presentation?

I remember one very excellent poster. It was a presentation of the experimental work on a thermal hydraulics loop for advanced reactors. The author used system simulation code and tried to compare the results and see if the experimental and calculated results are consistent with each other.

This work was related to the study of the natural circulation process. You know that natural circulation loop experiments are difficult to simulate in codes and that the work of our participant was a very useful exercise.

Another very interesting poster was related to the neural network. The author was trying to optimize the core of a research reactor with the help of a neural network. Currently the core optimization is done by the normal physics calculations and he uses his optimization technique to see how to increase the life of the research reactor core.

Thank you, Mr Batra, for speaking with the electronic publication AtomInfo.Ru.

Topics: IAEA, Interview

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