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Home arrow Environment arrow Reflections on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident

PAGES 2009 and 2010 Summer Schools

Before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, PAGES conducted the 2009 Advanced Summer School of Radioactive Waste Disposal with Social Scientifi Literacy in Berkeley, California, and the 2010 Advanced Summer School of Nuclear Engineering and Management with Social-Scientifi Literacy in Honolulu, Hawaii, with the participation of Tokai University, Japan. Table 1.1 summarizes the outlines of the PAGES 2009 and 2010 summer schools.

The first 2009 PAGES summer school was realized by the strong initiative of Joonhong Ahn, one of the editors of this book. None of the GoNERI members had been involved in such an ambitious project before. But Ahn and other members recognized that radioactive waste disposal was the one of the most urgent issues that should be tackled as an interdisciplinary challenge. Under this understanding, the 2009 PAGES summer school invited guest speakers who could provide “social aspects” education for engineers from the following fields: sociology, social psychology, economics, risk studies, science and technology studies (STS),

Table 1.1 Outlines of PAGES 2009 and 2010 summer school

and consensus building practices. Also, we held a symposium by those lecturers, PAGES members, and student participants on the final day of the program.

After this first trial case, on the one hand, we heard many complaints from student participants that there was not enough time for discussion with lecturers and other participants, even though 60 or 90 min were allocated for each lecture. On the other hand, academic interactions among invited lecturers from different backgrounds were strongly stimulated, extended, and deepened. Both the importance of the concept of PAGES and the actual experiences there were highly appreciated by almost all the expert participants. Such reactions had not been expected beforehand. This reaction reflects the reality that the number of opportunities for such intensive discussion among experts in different fields had been limited, although such efforts had been encouraged for a long time. This situation is no doubt common outside the nuclear field as well.

This experience strengthened our confidence in the PAGES project. In March 2010, about half a year after the first PAGES summer school, a closed workshop “What is social literacy for nuclear engineers? From problem-solving engineering to program-formulation engineering” was held at the University of Tokyo with 9 outside experts. The direction of “social literacy” education including the design of the PAGES summer school program, and more generally the future of engineering education, were intensively discussed. This workshop resulted in two important findings: (1) Engineering students prefer that a more object-oriented educational program be available not only for social-literacy education, but also for general engineering education, rather than the traditional lecture-style program; (2) Social literacy education must be embedded not only in nuclear engineering education, but in other fields of engineering education as well, in light of recent rapid social changes around engineering and technology.

Inspired and driven by these understandings, the second summer school was held in Honolulu, HI, in August 2010, in collaboration with Tokai University, Japan. Honolulu was selected as the venue for the school because it was the “midpoint” between the U.S. and Japan and an “away” place for both Japanese students and continental U.S. students. In the 2009 summer school, which was held in Berkeley, UC Berkeley students and professors (the majority of the participants) went home after each day's program, and interaction between them and the Japanese students was not as deep as the organizers expected. PAGES project members realized that this “home and away” gap should be and could be reduced by the venue selection.

Also, the content of the program was modified in response to the March 2010 workshop's conclusion, feedback from the 2009 PAGES participants, and other discussion among PAGES project members. Tatsuhiro Kamisato, a core member of the PAGES project and a historian of science, took the initiative for this second PAGES summer school in collaboration with Shinya Nagasaki, the chair of the organizing committee and a nuclear engineering professor at the University of Tokyo. In this year, two major improvements were made from the 2009 school.

The first point was the relativization of nuclear engineering as a field in the scholarship. Participants were encouraged to free themselves of stereotypical thinking such as “nuclear engineering as the given (fixed) field + social aspects.” The program was designed to help open their minds more and realize that nuclear technology has been invented, developed, and deployed through interdisciplinary collaboration among various different fields of scholarship. Lectures from engineering fields other than nuclear engineering (i.e., electric engineering, civil engineering, and so on) and social and human sciences (i.e., political science, history, social psychology, and so on) were included in the program, and guest lecturers were invited from various countries and regions including Europe, the U.S. and Japan. The concept of “engineering in society,” including issues centering on technology governance, risk, and ethical considerations, were broadly addressed in lectures and interactively discussed.

Another brand-new idea was the introduction of so-called project-based learning (PBL) for object-oriented education. In the later half of the summer school program, students were divided into small groups and given research topics. They conducted intensive surveys, discussions, and reports during a short period of time and made final presentations at the end of the program. The following four topics were chosen and studied by student groups: “Safety of High Level Waste Radioactive Disposal,” “Introduction of Technology for Society and its Process,” “The Necessity of a HLW Geological Repository,” and “Nuclear Power Generation Systems for the Non-Nuclear Armed Countries.”

 
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