Home Environment Reflections on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident
Communication with Society and the General Public
Even after recognizing the importance of mutual communication, it is not easy for nuclear engineers to understand and catch up with the general public that has different beliefs, preferences, cultural backgrounds, and often negative views on nuclear technologies. Nuclear technology has an intrinsic complexity regarding social context; and agreement/disagreement on the technology itself may become a topic of dialogue. Public opinions are also complex. They cannot be understood by asking simple questions, such as “Do you support nuclear power utilization?” We nuclear engineers should not readily think that we can draw out these opinions ourselves. There should be experts who can analyze the raw data from opinion polls and interpret them in societal and historical contexts. Such experts are expected to indicate what people's desires and concerns are so that nuclear engineers can uti-
lize the findings in developing their technology.
To realize this, engineers should acknowledge public opinion and have basic knowledge of social sciences, which is not the case in the current situation, so that they can adequately communicate with experts in these fields. I recognize that this is the central motivation for considering nuclear engineering education that highlights social-scientific literacy.
Communication with Experts in Other Fields
As nuclear engineering consists of systems engineering, there are many connections with other disciplines. It is advisable and natural to deepen the communication with other experts through such connections. In order to activate such communication and collaboration, nuclear engineering needs to be scientifically and technologically attractive. However, the level and quality within each sub-discipline field are not as high as those in its parent field, although a relatively large research budget has been funded for nuclear technology utilization and development. This could be due to lack of competition and openness. Indeed, pursuing scientific originality and frontier research are often incompatible with pursuing technology development specialized for nuclear engineering. Nevertheless, it is of crucial importance, especially for academia, to recover superiority in scientific originality in the nuclear engineering field, for activating competition and communication with other fields of science and engineering, which will ultimately help restore public trust.
Reform of Education
Most nuclear engineers are not ready to carry out the communication methods described in Sect. 20.7 at present. In addition, the Fukushima Daiichi accident indicated that even natural-scientific and technological standards of nuclear professionals are not adequately high. To improve the situation, nuclear engineering education needs to be reformed. I here propose the following 4 reform items.
Standardization and Internationalization
Even if social aspects are essential and need to be taught to nuclear engineers, natural-scientific and technological knowledge and disciplines are always the core of nuclear engineering. Without a high standard of these, nuclear safety cannot be ensured, social legitimacy and trust will never be achieved, and mutual communication and collaboration with experts in other fields cannot be activated. To make fulfilling a high standard of technological expertise and cultivating social-scientific literacy compatible in nuclear engineering education, the thoroughness and the effectiveness of education on the core technological expertise must be adequately heightened.
The core technological expertise includes reactor physics, radiochemistry, fluid dynamics, materials engineering, nuclear fuel cycle engineering, etc. Although these contents are taught as mandatory subjects in most universities, each subject may not necessarily be well optimized for each university. For example, when I teach materials science related to nuclear materials, even if I am careful, the contents are biased by my expertise and converged around my specific expertise. If the contents are common basics and the core for experts, they should not be too biased by the expertise of the lecturer but be more generalized and normalized so that nuclear professionals can share fundamental expertise independent of universities and nations where they have received their education. As an increasing number of countries plan nuclear power plant construction, developing and sharing standardized course materials is also beneficial to maintain the quality of nuclear professionals all over the world.
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