The scope of nuclear power is widening to include not only the technologies that employ the release of nuclear energy, such as nuclear power generation and nuclear fusion, but also the application of the radiation generated by nuclear disintegration and accelerators in the fields of industry, medicine, and life sciences. Even after the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011, the introduction of nuclear energy and the building of nuclear power stations still continue in the world, especially in developing nations. Furthermore, the large number of foreign students who study at the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Management also shows us the magnitude of the expectations from our nuclear technology, since we are a country that has learnt lessons from the accident.
The birth and development of nuclear technology has gone hand in hand with Nobel Prize winning research and discoveries such as the discovery of X-rays and radioactivity and nuclear fission, and the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. Recently, we have learnt how to image debris inside the Fukushima Daiichi reactors using muons, which are elementary particles coming in from space. When faced with a new problem, science is the light that dispels darkness. New reliable technologies originate from solid science infrastructure and are applied to the areas that appear unconnected at the first glance. In other words, nuclear technology can be said to be a sphere in which people from many fundamental branches of science, such as physics, chemistry, biology, and computer science, can participate successfully.
Further, technological innovation is necessary to make use of scientific results. Whether it is in nuclear power plants, applications of radiation in industry or medicine, or dealing with decommissioned nuclear reactors and radioactive waste, things that are "possible in principle" or "can be made safely and well when enough money is spent on it" are not helpful. It is important that we develop the technologies that can be realized within reasonable timeframes and at justified levels of costs and risk. In this sense, nuclear technology is a driving force that is supported by various fields of engineering, including mechanical and materials engineering, electrical and electronic engineering, and chemical engineering, and also leads to further development in these fields of engineering.
However, not everything can be solved by science and technology alone. Even if the accuracy of weather forecasting increases (= scientific progress) and we have light and strong umbrellas (=technological progress), we decide whether to go out with an umbrella or not and which umbrella to take after considering factors such as the day's schedule, our clothes, and luggage. Similarly, for making decisions on how to use nuclear power and radiation technologies, the leaders of our society must have the capacity to consider all aspects, including energy problems, environmental issues, climate change, economic efficiency, and security, from an international, comprehensive, and all-inclusive perspective. Furthermore, it is also important to consider things from the perspective of a resilient society and technologies that lose as little functionality as possible under unforeseen circumstances and that recover quickly.
Nuclear power is a cross-disciplinary branch of science that brings together a wide range of subjects from science and technology to the social sciences. I hope that young talented people from a wide variety of backgrounds will get together at the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Management, collaborate with people from other fields while perfecting their own area of specialization, and grow into leaders, who equipped with an international and comprehensive perspective, will be the pioneers of a prosperous future.
Head of the Department of Nuclear Engineering and Management