Nuclear Education Reform Before the Fukushima Daiichi Accident

Before the Fukushima Daiichi accident, there were several initiatives in Japan to reform higher education in nuclear engineering. The classical engineering higher education predominantly aims to make students acquire natural-scientifi and technological knowledge and skills relevant to nuclear engineering. Here I want to introduce an education-reform project undertaken by the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Management, the University of Tokyo. The project was named “Nuclear Education and Research Initiative” (GoNERI). GoNERI was fi supported under the Global Center of Excellence (GCOE) program led by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan (MEXT). The general objectives of the GCOE program were to “establish education and research centers that perform at the apex of global excellence to elevate the international competitiveness of the Japanese universities” and to “strengthen and enhance the education and research functions of graduate schools, to foster highly creative young researchers who will go on to become world leaders in their respective fi through experiencing and practicing research of the highest world standard” [1].

GoNERI was selected as one of the GCOE subjects and the program ran during FY2007-FY2011. GoNERI aimed to “develop a well-rounded research and education program in response to a variety of world-wide nuclear utilization subjects such as protection of the global environment, supply of safe and stable nuclear energy, radiation application for healthy, productive and prosperous lives” and to “perform the fi systematic education on nuclear energy in the world, incorporating the social, liberal arts and technical subjects as they relate to nuclear utilization [2].” GoNERI specifi three realms for education and research, which were nuclear sociology, nuclear energy, and radiation application, and intended to implement them into the curriculum in an integrated manner [2]. Among them, “nuclear sociology” is of particular interest. It involves nuclear energy law, nuclear non-proliferation, and harmonization of technology and society, and puts a special focus on “public understanding for harmonization between society and technology” [2].

There was another similar education reform program led by Tokyo Institute of Technology in FY2003-FY2007. In its purpose statement [3], “the relationship between nuclear energy and society” was frequently mentioned. Considering these two reform programs in different universities, it would be reasonable to assume that the awareness of the importance of social aspects of nuclear technology, especially harmonization with society, was widely shared in the nuclear professional community. It was recognized that some social-scientific disciplines related to the social aspects of nuclear technology should be taught in nuclear engineering education. This awareness and recognition must have been brought about by long-lasting frictions in society over the utilization of nuclear technology, such as the delay in selecting a high-level radioactive waste disposal site.

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