Concept, Aim, and Design of PAGES 2011 Summer School

Planning for PAGES 2011 Summer School

After these two summer schools in 2009 and 2010 as trial cases of the educational program, in January 2011 we started preparing for the third summer school, for which the issue of high-level radioactive waste (HLW) disposal technology and society was selected. It was to be held in Sweden, in collaboration with the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM). We had a meeting in Stockholm in January 2011 and agreed upon an outline for the approximately 10-day program, which included a series of site visits to so-called back-end nuclear facilities in Sweden and Finland. This program was planned to function as an applied curriculum mainly for alumni of our past summer schools. The site visits were intended to deepen students' understanding of the societal aspects of nuclear utilization through the site observation tours, conversations with site officials and local people, and discussion with lecturers and fellow students.

However, we found our plans unsettled by one of the most serious nuclear disasters in world history: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, which was triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and its subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. From the discussions accumulated in the previous PAGES activities, we immediately thought of the accident as a joint socio-technical failure.[1] This accident raised many fundamental and controverted questions regarding the traditional approaches of nuclear engineering and its utilization in society. We believed that engineers and other experts involved in nuclear utilization needed to take those questions very seriously and be responsive to criticism and concern expressed by citizens.

Consequently, the organizing committee decided to make the third summer school a venue for preliminary, yet multi-dimensional learning from the accident by focusing on refl on that shocking event (although we still hold that the importance of HLW disposal remains unchanged, or perhaps becomes even more urgent in the disaster's aftermath). This decision led to a change of venue, as well as the introduction of an amended topic for the school. While we fi considered the possibility of having the school at the University of Tokyo campus or any other place in Japan, this option was rejected due to (among other reasons) the serious burden of a projected shortage of electricity in the summer season. We also wanted to make this summer school a place that enabled the participants to critically address the situation and issues involved in this accident, and to exchange their views candidly.

Based on such considerations, the 2011 Advanced Summer School of Nuclear Engineering and Management with Social-Scientific Literacy: Reflections on the Fukushima Nuclear Accident (PAGES 2011) was held in Berkeley, California, in the first week of August (July 31–August 5), organized around 12 lectures and a series of facilitated discussions. It attracted 18 students from various fields and countries, principally nuclear engineering students in graduate programs in Japan and the United States, but including some social science students as well as students from other nations studying in these countries. In the rest of this introductory chapter, we will explain the concept, aim, and design of our educational program; offer a brief assessment of its effectiveness; introduce a couple of intriguing discussions held by participants; and discuss the program's implications for the postFukushima nuclear context.

  • [1] To understand more about this perspective, see Chap. 10 by M. Matsumoto of this volume.
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