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Reflections on Developing an Identity for the Third Generation Nuclear Engineer in the Post-Fukushima Society

Robert Angelo Borrelli

Abstract The March 2011 nuclear reactor accidents at the Fukushima, Japan nuclear reactor complex catalyzed public discussion about nuclear technology and energy worldwide. As part of this, in August 2011, the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California-Berkeley (UCBNE) hosted the 2011 Advanced Summer School of Nuclear Engineering and Management with SocialScientific Literacy: Reflections on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Beyond (the Summer School). This unique program featured world leaders in nuclear engineering, social science, and history. The student body was comprised of post doctorate researchers and graduate students. This chapter will discuss the identity of the nuclear engineer within the context of the post-Fukushima society. Specifically, this is directed to what will be termed the 'third generation' engineer. In the upcoming decades, it is this third generation that will lead and shape perspectives on nuclear technology and develop new relationships with society. This chapter is intended to pose questions to the third generation to consider as part of their own, professional self-assessment. This chapter draws primarily from the experiences at the Summer School in an effort to direct meaningful discussions about the need to consider the identity of this third generation nuclear engineer in the post-Fukushima society.

Keywords Fukushima Society Engineering ethics Nuclear energy Historical inertia Third generation

Preface

The March 2011 nuclear reactor accidents at the Fukushima, Japan nuclear reactor complex triggered a scrutinous public discussion about nuclear technology on an unprecedented scale, much more so than from the accident at Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. As part of this, in early August 2011, the Department of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California-Berkeley (UCBNE) hosted the 2011 AdvancedSummerSchoolofNuclearEngineeringandManagementwithSocialScientific Literacy: Reflections on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Beyond (the Summer School). This unique program, in its third year, featured world leaders in nuclear engineering, social science, and history. The student body was comprised of post doctorate researchers and graduate students.

One of the most important questions unanimously raised during this week by the students focused on the professional identity of the nuclear engineer in the post-Fukushima society. Students had difficulty with this, in terms of a real examination of themselves as nuclear engineers and future leaders in the field. This was primarily due to the increasingly complex relationship of nuclear technology with contemporary society. The Fukushima Daiichi accidents resulted in the students coming to realize this relationship in a very real and tangible way. To this end, this chapter will discuss the identity of the nuclear engineer. Specifically, this is directed to what will be termed the 'third generation' engineer; i.e., the student body at the Summer School. In the upcoming decades, it is this 'third generation' that will lead and shape perspectives on nuclear technology and develop new relationships with society. This chapter is intended to pose questions for the nuclear engineer to consider as part of their own, professional self-assessment. This chapter draws primarily from the experiences at the Summer School in an effort to direct meaningful discussions about the need to consider the identity of this third generation nuclear engineer in the post-Fukushima society.

 
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