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Home arrow Environment arrow Reflections on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Accident

Transparency and Sharing

In addition to the core contents, advanced and applied contents are important. In this aspect, the feature of each university should emerge. In these contents, a variety of expertise and knowledge should be maintained. Some contents which let students experience trials and errors may be intentionally involved. Here, the most important point is to clearly show its pedagogical meaning to students, experts inside and outside the community, and to society. There are 3 reasons to do so.

1. Society can see what the nuclear professional community aims at in education. The curriculum is a kind of design sheet on how to nurture professionals. To show the design sheet is a social responsibility of the university. Responding to this accountability also helps to make the purpose of education clearer. It is also effective to increase the transparency of the expert community and then increase trustworthiness and introspection.

2. Each university can see the educational resources of other universities. As scientific disciplines involved in nuclear engineering are vast, it is difficult for one university department to sufficiently cover all the necessary subjects. If the educational resources are open to other universities, it would foster collaboration.

3. Universities can mutually monitor the status of other universities' (and thus other countries') education. Also experts in other fields can check the educational conditions. The Fukushima Daiichi accident re-confirmed to us that the consequences of nuclear technology including accidents are intrinsically international. Knowing about the situation of other universities would spur us to work hard together with each other, and also would function as introspection. This is also a responsibility to nuclear experts in other countries as well as to the public in other countries.

Social-Scientific Literacy Education

The importance of understanding the opinion of society was described in above sections. For to-be-experts, they first need to realize this importance as their own feeling and then recognize that its consideration and reflection are highly important to safely utilize nuclear reactors and to advance nuclear engineering. Then, they need to cultivate social-scientific literacy through education about engineering ethics, philosophy of science, history of science, science and technology and society (STS), social psychology, politics, economics, organizational theory, cultural theory, etc. As a result, the ability to collaborate with experts in social sciences as well as communicators to engage citizens can be fostered. To my knowledge, most nuclear engineering curriculums only include some of these subjects in a piecemeal fashion. There is no consensus which contents are more relevant and important for engineers.

Personally, I believe education on nuclear history is effective. This must involve not only positive history such as how nuclear R&D succeeded and technologies were developed, but also negative history such as failures in R&D, scandals, accidents, and how mutual distrust between society and engineers have come about. As mentioned above, nuclear technology has some unique features that other technologies do not usually have. Studying and knowing history also reminds us of this nature of nuclear technology.

In education of social aspects, international collaboration is also important. On societal issues in the community or in the society where one belongs, it is hard to be fully objective: sometimes one becomes too critical or too defensive. If the issues are of other nations, one can be more objective and keep an appropriate distance from the issue. For example, if international collaboration is made on nuclear history education, students would discover similarities and differences in these histories, and can fi that many countries follow the mistakes of advanced countries. Whether good cases or bad cases, histories and situations of other countries teach a lot.

Faculty Development and Evaluation

Most education reform attempts focus on evaluation of students: e.g., how many times students attended research conferences, what papers were published, etc. This is quality control at the exit of an educational system. We should pay more attention on the system itself, specifically evaluation of faculty and facilities.

While the speed of social advancement/change has been increasing, the work period of an engineer has been extending. Even for nuclear engineering whose development speed has become relatively slow, technologies are largely renewed within the work period of an engineer. To construct an effective education system, it is imperative for the faculty, especially senior faculty, to put themselves in the forefront, update their knowledge, and continuously learn. Such activities by faculty should be systematically supported by the university. When all faculty members have such an attitude and update their knowledge as well as their views on the role and position of nuclear technology in society, the accumulation of these knowledge and views would form the basis of an appropriate education system.

Regarding evaluation of faculty, it should not be so straightforward and simple. Although some outsiders should be involved in the evaluation, it cannot be done mainly by outsiders. As the complexity of technology increases, indeed due to that, the importance of experts and their knowledge is more keenly highlighted, particularly in the case of balancing and managing multiple different disciplines relevant to technology utilization. Hence, it is better that the details of faculty development support and faculty evaluation criteria are discussed and determined primarily by the nuclear engineering department at each university and then shown to society and experts in other fields so as to reflect outsiders' viewpoints. In the discussion, the aforementioned 3 viewpoints, i.e., standardization and internationalization, transparency and sharing, and social-scientific literacy education, should be considered.

 
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