In the 1990's, the academic education in nuclear engineering in Belgium consisted of two interuniversity programmes of one year of post-graduate studies complementary to the civil engineering degree - both in the Flemish and the French community. These programmes existed for several years but suffered from strongly reduced student numbers. Despite many efforts taken, the recruitment of new students seemed to be a difficult task at that time. The reasons for this are multiple. First of all there was the negative influence of the public opinion with respect to nuclear energy as a consequence of the Chernobyl accident. Second, there was the uncertainty regarding the phase out of nuclear energy in the long term. Furthermore, from the side of the operators the lack of innovative projects failed to attract the students.

Because of the educational decrees, that demand a minimum number of students, the two programmes became endangered.  It was in this context that five Belgian universities and the Belgian Nuclear Research Centre SCK•CEN decided to act and remodel the nuclear education scene in Belgium with the creation of the post-graduate BNEN programme.

The universities involved are now: Universiteit Leuven (KULeuven), Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL), Université de Liège (ULg), Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Universiteit Gent (UGent) and Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB). The consortium was created in 2002 and the ULB joined as a sixth partner in 2006.